Legal Services

Conducting A Title Search

By Tony Seruga, Yolanda Seruga And Yolanda Bishop

If you are involved in real estate investing, then you probably already realize that due diligence is extremely important. Taking the time to do due diligence now can help you avoid all kinds of problems that could crop up in the future. One of the most important parts of due diligence includes doing a title search on the property you are considering. When you take the time to do a title search, you’ll be able to find some of the potential issues that could affect the investment that you are making and the entire development plan. Of course you should also pay attention to other issues, such as flood plains, environmental issues, and any other things that could ruin your plans and the potential of a resale.

What is a Title?

First of all, it is important that you understand fully what a title is and why it is so important. Basically, a title is the legal term for an owner’s interest in a piece of property. Of course it can also refer to the formal document that proves that you have ownership of the property. If you are going to transfer ownership of the property to someone else, then you will have to transfer that document to another person. However, title is different from possession, which is a right that comes with ownership, but it may not be able to prove ownership. In some cases you may transfer the title and possession independently as well.

Three Elements of a Title

You also need to understand the three different elements of a title. First of all there is possession, then the right of possession, and then the right of property. All three of these elements make up what as known as a title.

– Possession

The possession is that actually holding of the property, whether or not you actually have the right to do so.


– Right of Possession

Basically the right of possession is the legitimacy of possession, even though you may not actually have the possession of the property. This means that there is evidence that will be upheld by the law showing that you have the right of possession to the property.

– Right of Property

The right of property is a different right, in which case, if all the facts were actually known, you would be able to defeat all other claims to this property.

It is important to note that the three different elements of title could all be held by a different person.

Applications of Title

In many companies that have a private property system that is quite sophisticated, title documents are used for vehicles, real estate, and even for intangible property at times. When title documents are actually used, they are usually part of a system of registration that helps verify and keep records of who actually owns the property. You may also find that a title can be a permanent legal record of condemnation of property in some cases, such as a salvage or automobile junk title.

When it comes to real estate, the deed is the legal instrument that is used to transfer the title. The rule is that a thief cannot actually convey good title, so title searches have become routine, or at least highly recommended when you purchase property, such as real estate. There are actually some places in the United States that require, by law, that you do a standard Title Search as a part of transferring ownership of the property.

Real Estate Title

Having a real estate title is basically providing evidence that you hold the legal ownership of the property. When you buy a piece of real estate, you may make sure that you have the right to occupy, use, or resell the property without any problem. You can verify marketability of property and previous ownership of a piece of property, just by doing a title search. However, if you plan on purchasing a piece of property that has multi-unit ownership, such as time shares, cooperatives, and condos, there may be some special considerations to keep in mind.

Benefits of a Title Search

As you can see, it is imperative that you conduct a title search before purchasing a piece of property. The following are just a few of the benefits of taking the time to do a title search before you actually pay for a piece of property.

Benefit #1 – You’ll Be Sure You Can Own It – Many times there can be something in the history of the title that could take you from actually taking possession of the property. No one wants to pay for property and then find out that they may not ever be able to actually own it. So, if you take the time to do a title search before you buy, you’ll be sure that you will be able to actually own this piece of property with no hindrances.

Benefit #2 – Problems Will Be Found Before You Buy – There have been some people who never did a title search, and then when they were actually putting money on the property, they suddenly found out that there was a problem. This can end up leaving you in a lurch, so it is better to know up front if there are going to be any problems, rather than finding out at the last minute that there are some problems that may keep you from taking ownership of the property.

Benefit #3 – A Good Attorney Can Be of Help – While you may not be able to do the title search on your own, whether you don’t have the time or the experience to do so, but you can have a good attorney do it for you. You can also have a title company perform a title search for you. Both will charge a fee, but it is well worth the money.

Before you get to deeply involved in the purchasing process of real estate, be sure to take the time to do a title search to avoid any problems in the future. You’ll be glad you did it!

About the Author: Anthony Seruga and Yolly Bishop of

specialize in commercial and investment real estate. As of May, 2006, they and their partners are managing over $600 million dollars worth of new projects.


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