The real estate transaction, Part I: The property title

When a legal issue arises out of a real estate transaction, it often involves the title. Wynn at Law, LLC won’t let you go to closing without a title in good order or “clean title”, regardless of whether you’re the seller or the buyer about to get the title.

Backtracking a little bit… the title is also called the deed. It’s proof of ownership of and right to sell a piece of property. Just like the title to your car. The bank holds the car title until you pay off your car loan, then transfers the title to you when you pay off the car. In property, however, a title is going to have a much longer history than a car that might be junked in 10 years or less. And that’s how some common title issues arise.

Liens can scuttle a transaction

Liens against the property prevent a property owner from having a ‘clean’ title. A property owner has to ‘cure’ or fix the title before selling rights to the house, building, or land. If there is a first or second mortgage on the property, the bank is a lienholder, but not always the only one. The courts can put a lien on a property as a result of litigation, such as being sued for back taxes or other civil judgments, usually past-due credit or medical bills. Homeowner associations can put a lien on the property if the association dues aren’t paid, too.

Wynn at Law, LLC reivews the title before you get to the closing table to ensure there aren’t liens. We also check to see if the person who owns the house is actually the seller. Common sense says you can’t sell something you don’t own. In some real estate deals, this might not be the case. For example, the owner of a family home might have it held in a trust, or put into a limited liability company, to protect it from creditors (liens). Our title review reveals this as well.

It runs in the family

One thing that can arise with a property that has been in the family for years is that the title could have passed informally – handed down – without a legal recording of the change and chain of custody. We can see that with summer homes that have remained in families for generations, and farms/farmland that also has stayed within the family for years after the original owner passed away.

Additional, and more rare, problems that arise are that a title is not accurately prepared and/or filed following a divorce decree or a bank neglects to satisfy a mortgage once it’s paid off. Nobody needs any of these sorts of headaches during what is, for most, the largest financial transaction of a lifetime. That’s why you really need an experienced real estate attorney.

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