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How to Search Title: A Key Skill for Real Estate Success

Searching the title of a property is a crucial skill for any real estate investor. This process can help you avoid costly mistakes and even lead to significant profits. In this guide, we’ll break down how to search a title and ensure the chain of title is intact.

Understanding Title

In property law, a title is a bundle of rights in a piece of property. These rights can be owned by different people. A title also refers to formal documents like deeds that prove ownership. When someone says they “took title” to a house, they mean they have legal ownership, often evidenced by a deed.

Why Titles Matter

Knowing how to search a title can be the difference between making or losing money in real estate. For example, liens against a property or its owner can affect the sale. Understanding these liens and the chain of title can help you make informed decisions.

Steps to Search a Title

  1. Visit the County Clerk’s Office Online
    • Google “County Clerk” for the county where the property is located.
    • Look for an option like “Real Estate Search” or “Public Records Search.”
    • Register for an account if needed; it’s usually free.
  2. Get the Legal Description
    • Go to the County Central Appraisal District (CAD).
    • Search by address or owner name to find the property.
    • Note the legal description and the owner’s name listed on the CAD.
  3. Use the Legal Description
    • Go back to the County Clerk’s website.
    • Conduct an advanced search using the legal description.
    • Be vague if the subdivision name can be abbreviated or misspelled.

What to Look For

When you perform a title search, you’ll see a range of documents. Here’s what you should pay attention to:

  • Deeds that show the transfer of ownership.
  • Deeds of Trust that indicate loans against the property.
  • Mechanic’s Liens that contractors may have filed.
  • Assignments that show the transfer of mortgages or liens.

Real-World Examples

Here’s what you might encounter:

  1. Clean Title: You find a series of documents showing clear ownership transfers and loans. No additional liens or complications exist.
  2. Complex Title: Multiple liens, assignments, and deeds of trust. You may need to contact various parties or pay off liens to clear the title.

Using Advanced Searches

In an advanced search, you can input the lot, block, and subdivision to narrow down results. Be specific but also broad enough to catch any variations in how the title may have been recorded.

Registering and Searching

Most counties offer free registration for online searches. You can usually view the first page of any document for free and pay a small fee for additional pages. This allows you to gather all necessary information without breaking the bank.

Takeaway

Understanding how to search a property title is an invaluable skill for any real estate investor. By following the steps outlined in this guide—visiting the County Clerk’s Office online, obtaining the legal description from the County Central Appraisal District, and conducting thorough searches—you can uncover crucial information about a property’s history. 

Whether you find a clean title or a complex one with multiple liens, being well-informed will help you make better investment decisions, avoid potential pitfalls, and maximize your returns in real estate. Remember, knowledge is power, and a meticulous title search is your first line of defense in safeguarding your investments.

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