Most title searches cost between $100 and $250 for residential properties, and upwards of $1,000 or more for commercial properties. The exact price and process varies by state. For a smooth title search, ask your title company for an estimate of the cost before they get started, and verify that have an underwriter that will fund a claim if you have an issue down the road.
You’ve found your dream home, made an accepted offer, and you’re closing in on finally moving into the space. It’s an exciting time, but before you make the home yours, you’ll have to go through a few steps, including obtaining an inspection, having the home appraised, and conducting a property title search.
Most people have heard of home inspections and appraisals, but property title searches are less well known. It may be a more obscure part of the homebuying experience, but a property title search is absolutely essential to ensure you close on a new home without any hiccups. While no one wants to pay unnecessary costs, the small title fee can prevent you from losing your home to a title dispute.
A property title search examines public records on the property to confirm the property’s legal owner. It’s a very important step of the homebuying process that scrutinizes the history of ownership of the home. A title search can reveal if there are any issues or defects with the title, and any claims or liens on the property that could stall or cancel the purchase.
It’s reasonable to assume that the person you’re buying a home from is actually entitled to sell the home. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, somebody else may have a claim to the property (such as in an inheritance dispute), or there’s a lien on the property because the current owner owes creditors.
A current owner might not even be aware of an old claim against the property’s title. They may have inherited a lien without knowing it or the property previously passed hands with improper record keeping. Second, debts follow the property. Even if there have been two owners since someone was delinquent on property payments, those debts may come back to bite you.
Most title searches cost between $100 and $250 for residential properties. The price varies based on the state you’re conducting the search in and how complicated the search becomes. If you’re buying a commercial property, a title search may run north of $1,000.
At the end of the title search, which typically takes 10 to 14 days, you’ll get a simple report on the documents connected to the property, highlighting any obstacles you may face if you move forward with the purchase. If there are no issues, it’s a very brief report.
In addition to the base cost of the title search, there may be additional title-related expenses such as lender's and owners title insurance, title settlement fees, and attorney and recording fees. These may constitute some of the buyer or seller's closing costs.
The responsibility for paying the cost of a title search can vary depending on the real estate customs and agreements in different regions. In some cases, the buyer may cover the expenses, while in others, it may be negotiated for the seller to pay or split the cost. The specifics should be discussed and agreed upon during the negotiation and closing process.
Before you choose a title company, ask for a specific estimate of the prospective cost. If you provide them with some specific property details, like the address, they should be able to give you a good estimate.
Additionally, make sure you verify that the title company has a recognized underwriter that will fund a claim if you have an issue down the road. Most title agencies underwrite their policies through major companies like First American, Fidelity, TRGC, Stewart, or Old Republic. In a perfect world, it won’t matter, but it’s good to know upfront that your title company has the backing of a major underwriter. That’s because those underwriters will pay your claim if you have an issue later on, and they’ll be the ones providing your title insurance.
All property records are public, so you are entitled to search for a title yourself. Just because you can do it yourself, however, doesn’t mean you should — it’s a better idea to leave it to the professionals. (Unless, of course, you are a public records professional.) These people have done it before, know where to look, and have a trained eye for perusing complicated legal documents.
Bear in mind that all counties and municipalities organize property information differently so before you even begin searching, plan to visit multiple government offices. You can usually find the records you need at places like the county courthouse, the recorder’s office, and the county assessor office.
First, you’ll need the legal description of the property, found on the property tax statement. With this information, either search online or visit the Recorder’s Office or Office of the Examiner of Titles in your county and request access to public records using the legal description. Then, do the manual work of looking through property records to identify the current titleholder and any liens.
Many counties offer property title records available online, searchable through the county appraiser’s office or the county deeds office. (It may take a little Googling.) Depending on the county, you may search by the owner’s name, the property address, a business name, or other criteria. You’ll also likely find the exact boundaries of the parcel of land covered by a property title, which could be a surprise.
Here are some more details about the costs of a title search.
A title search typically includes a review of public records, deeds, mortgages, liens, easements, and other relevant documents to establish the property's ownership history and any potential issues affecting the title.
The duration of a title search can vary depending on the complexity of the property and the efficiency of the title company or attorney. Generally, it takes around 1 to 2 weeks to complete a thorough title search.
Buying a home takes a lot of time, money, and effort, but cutting corners can lead to problems for both buyer and seller. Title searches tend to cost less than $250, which is a small price to pay for the potential thousands of dollars in debts and legal fees you may face down the line without one.
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