Property Title Search: What It Is And How It Works

title services
title services

Before you purchase real estate, you will need to hire a title company to conduct what’s known as a title search. As an informed and involved property owner, it is important to understand what a title search involves and why is it so important.

What Is a Title Search?

When you purchase real estate, you acquire a document called the title, which proves your ownership of that property. You hold that title until you sell the property, when the title is transferred to the new owner.

A title search is the process used to verify that the person selling the property does, indeed, have the legal right to the title of that property. As a part of the search, your title company will discover all of the previous holders of the title. They’ll also find out whether there are any liens against the property. For instance, if a previous owner failed to pay their property taxes, the local government may have a lien against the title.

If the title search does reveal any liens, restrictions on the use of the land, or previously unknown claims to the title, then these can be dealt with before you purchase the property, thus ensuring that you have a clean right to the title.

How Is a Title Search Conducted?

Conducting a title search involves a lot of phone calls and reviewing of records. As a part of the process, your title services provider reviews tax assessments, court records, insurance policies, wills, and other relevant documents. 

Once the search is complete, your title company will either inform you that the title is clean, or they’ll let you know that there’s a defect in the title. If there is a defect, such as a lien, unpaid taxes, or easements, then your agent will walk you through the process of addressing the defect, should you so choose. You may also decide to walk away from the sale based on the results of the title search.

How Long Does a Title Search Take?

This depends on the property you’re purchasing. A title search for a newer property could take just a few hours. For an older home that has had many owners, the search process could take several weeks.

What If The Title Company Misses Something?

Title companies do their best to be thorough, but on occasion, a defect might go overlooked. In such cases, a title insurance policy will protect you. If you have title insurance and a defect is discovered in your title after purchase, then your insurance policy will pay for any related damages. Purchasing title insurance is highly recommended for this reason, and is mandatory in Pennsylvania for properties purchased or refinanced with mortgage loans. 

The title search is a very important part of any real estate purchase. If you’re looking for a title company Philadelphia residents depend on, contact Heritage Land Transfer. We have been providing title and escrow services in PA, NJ, and beyond for more than 30 years!