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What is a Property Deed?
A property deed is a legal document that is used in real estate transactions to transfer the title of real property from a seller to a buyer. Real property can be land, or anything attached to land, like a house or a road. A deed is necessary to show ownership of the property.
There are several different types of deeds including warranty deeds, quitclaim deeds, and special purpose deeds. Each of these legal documents serves a different purpose.
Every time property is purchased or sold, a deed needs to accompany the transaction. To be legally valid, the deed must be signed, notarized, and filed on public record. This allows deeds to be found using a title search, and the ownership of the property can be traced back as far as it is recorded.
Understanding Property Deeds
To be legally valid, deeds must include certain information. Each state will have its own requirements for what needs to be included in a deed, but it is common to have the following information:
- Identities of the grantor (seller) and grantee (buyer) and lists their addresses.
- A detailed description of the property which should include property lines, roads, and sewer lines.
- Words of conveyance that officially grants the property to the grantee.
- Proof of consideration like the amount of money paid for the property, or language that shows that the property was gifted to the grantee.
- Signatures of both the grantor and grantee
Other information that is required will depend on the type of property being transferred. A house in a subdivision, for example, will need a description of the plot and information about the subdivision.
It is important to remember that a deed must be made in writing and both the grantor, and the grantee must be legally competent and capable of participating in the real estate transaction.
Here is an article that goes deeper into deeds.
Types of Deeds
There are several different types of deeds that each offer different protections to the purchaser of the property in the real estate transaction. Most used are the general warranty deed, the grant deed, and the quitclaim deed.
General Warranty Deed
A general warranty deed provides the most protection to the buyer because it provides proof that the seller has the full legal title to the property with the right to sell the property. The seller is required to make legally binding promises, or covenants, and warranties to the buyer. These warranties include:
- Covenant of Seisin: Assures that the seller owns the property and can legally sell it.
- Covenant Against Encumbrances: Assures the buyer that the property is free from liens unless specifically stated in the deed.
- Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment: Guarantees that the buyer will have the right to quiet possession of the property and will not be inconvenienced by a defective title.
- Covenant of Further Assurance: Assures that the grantor will provide any documents necessary to make sure the title is legitimate.
A grant deed, which can also be referred to as a limited warranty deed or a special warranty deed , gives less protection to the buyer than a general warranty deed but more than a quit claim deed. The two main warranties that a grant deed normally provides are that the seller has not sold or transferred the property to any other party, and that there are no title issues that the seller knows of for the period they have held the title to the property.
This deed will not protect the buyer from any claims that may have happened before the seller took over the title and the seller is not required to pay any legal fees arising from title claims.
Due to the lack of protection by this deed, it is normally used for the transfer of commercial property and not for the sale of home.
A quitclaim deed offers the least amount of protection to the buyer. Some states refer to this deed as a non-warranty deed. A quitclaim deed simply transfers the grantor’s interest in the property to the grantee without any promises or warranties that the title is valid.
If there is an issue with the title, the grantee has no legal protections. For this reason, a quitclaim deed is used specifically when the grantor is not sure if the title is defective and wants to avoid liability.
This deed is also often used when there is no money being exchanged for the property like when a parent transfers property to a child or one spouse transfers property to their partner.
Click here to keep reading about the different types of property deeds.
Does A Property Deed Prove Ownership?
A property deed is key in proving ownership of real property but does not necessarily prove ownership by itself . It shows that the seller transferred their interest in the property to a buyer. This is especially true for a general warranty deed which guarantees the new owner holds the title free and clear.
A quitclaim and grant deed also prove proof of ownership but only if there are no title issues. Without the guarantee of the warranty deed, even if a purchaser of property has a deed, someone else could have claim to the title.
Difference Between Deeds and Titles
The biggest difference between a deed and a title is that a property deed is a physical document showing ownership of a property while the title is just a concept of an owner’s rights to the property.
When you purchase a piece of property of value whether it be a house, a car, a boat, or any other real property that comes with a title, you will receive both a deed proving purchase and the title.
Read this article for further explanation of the difference between deeds and tiles.
Image via Pexels by Curtis
Finding a Property Deed
A deed is an essential part of purchasing a piece of property because the deed shows the history and ownership of the property. There are many reasons someone may need to find a property deed including:
- A person interested in buying a piece of property and wants to search for liens or potential title issues.
- Banks who require a clean deed to lend money to buyers for a mortgage.
- Someone who wants to use property for collateral needs to ensure the deed is good.
- A seller will search their own property deeds to avoid issues in the selling process.
Recording a Deed
When a deed is recorded, it becomes public record and is accessible through the clerk in the county where the property is located. Each state will have different laws and regulations pertaining to recording deeds.
By recording a deed, you are showing that real property was transferred to you. If there is ever a situation in which someone else can show ownership interest in your property, by recording your proof first you can protect your investment.
How to Search for a Deed
Many counties have online databases that make searching for deeds simple. To begin your search, you will need the property address and the name of the current or previous property owner.
A parcel identification number is the best way to search for a deed because this is the number that is assigned to a deed when it is filed.
If you are having trouble finding the property, check alternate spellings for the street name or owner’s name, and make sure you are searching in the correct database.
Get Help with A Property Deed
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Meet some of our Property Deed Lawyers
I am a 1984 graduate of the Benjamin N Cardozo School of Law (Yeshiva University) and have been licensed in New Jersey for over 35 years. I have extensive experience in negotiating real estate, business contracts, and loan agreements. Depending on your needs I can work remotely or face-to-face. I offer prompt and courteous service and can tailor a contract and process to meet your needs.
Tim advises small businesses, entrepreneurs, and start-ups on a wide range of legal matters. He has experience with company formation and restructuring, capital and equity planning, tax planning and tax controversy, contract drafting, and employment law issues. His clients range from side gig sole proprietors to companies recognized by Inc. magazine.
For over thirty (30) years, Mr. Langley has developed a diverse general business and commercial litigation practice advising clients on day-to-day business and legal matters, as well as handling lawsuits and arbitrations across Texas and in various other states across the country. Mr. Langley has handled commercial matters including employment law, commercial collections, real estate matters, energy litigation, construction, general litigation, arbitrations, defamation actions, misappropriation of trade secrets, usury, consumer credit, commercial credit, lender liability, accounting malpractice, legal malpractice, and appellate practice in state and federal courts. (Online bio at www.curtmlangley.com).
Real Estate and Business lawyer.
Davis founded DLO in 2010 after nearly a decade of practicing in the corporate department of a larger law firm. Armed with this experience and knowledge of legal solutions used by large entities, Davis set out to bring the same level of service to smaller organizations and individuals. The mission was three-fold: provide top-notch legal work, charge fair prices for it, and never stop evolving to meet the changing needs of clients. Ten years and more than 1000 clients later, Davis is proud of the assistance DLO provides for companies large and small, and the expanding service they now offer for individuals and families.
Braden Perry is a corporate governance, regulatory and government investigations attorney with Kennyhertz Perry, LLC. Mr. Perry has the unique tripartite experience of a white-collar criminal defense and government compliance, investigations, and litigation attorney at a national law firm; a senior enforcement attorney at a federal regulatory agency; and the Chief Compliance Officer/Chief Regulatory Attorney of a global financial institution. Mr. Perry has extensive experience advising clients in federal inquiries and investigations, particularly in enforcement matters involving technological issues. He couples his technical knowledge and experience defending clients in front of federal agencies with a broad-based understanding of compliance from an institutional and regulatory perspective.
William L Foster has been practicing law since 2006 as an attorney associate for a large litigation firm in Denver, Colorado. His experience includes drafting business contracts, organizational filings, and settlement agreements.