House Title Search: What Is It & What Issues Can Arise?

House Title Search Guide

Your Guide to Home Title Searches & Common Title Issues When Selling or Buying a House

A title search is usually mandatory when you buy a home with a mortgage or when you sell to a buyer who needs financing. These title searches are essentially property record reviews that happen during the closing process.

Here’s why, with helpful answers to common property title FAQs, including:

Title Search Guide When Buying or Selling a House

This 2-minute guide clearly lays out the title search process, so you know what to expect as a buyer or a seller — and so you know what to do if title problems ever arise during a real estate transaction. Whenever you need advice about title searches or closing from a trusted Texas Realtor®, simply contact New Home Gurus.

A house title search is a review of public records for a particular property with the goals of:

Home Title Search Defined
  • Determining the owner of the property: Does the seller have the right to sell the house associated with the transaction? The title search will answer this question.
  • Uncovering any possible issues tied to the property: Fraud, legal judgments affecting the property, financial issues associated with the property, and even simple errors on public records can all come to light through the title search.
  • Identifying the “chain of title”: With the title search, the history of house ownership is detailed, revealing all prior owners of the property.

A title company, which is a neutral third party, typically conducts the title search, with the costs of this service usually included in the closing costs. Please note that title search costs are usually somewhere between around $75 and $250, depending on the title company, the area, and other factors.

Consequently, homebuyers generally choose the title company and cover the title costs. However, the sellers may offer to cover these costs. If they do, they may reserve the right to select the title company.

Either way, the terms of the purchase agreement should spell out who’s responsible for what when it comes to the title search, the title company, and the costs of the title search.

When a title company conducts the title search, a lawyer or a professional known as a “title abstractor” will:

House Title Search Process
  1. Compile all relevant property records: This can include documents like property tax records, court records, loan documents, land records, chain of title documents, lien documents, and more.
  2. Carefully examine the property records: The examiner will be looking for any issues to figure out if the property has a clean title or a “dirty title.” Clean titles will definitively establish ownership without any legal (or other) encumbrances. Dirty titles will have some type of legal, financial, or other issue tied to the property.
  3. Issue a preliminary title report: The findings of the title search will be detailed in this report. At this point, the title search is complete, and the buyer may have one “last chance” to reconsider the purchase if any title problems were uncovered. Specifically, the buyer may stipulate that the seller has to clear all title issues before the purchase can be completed.

If there are no title issues, closing will generally move forward, with the title company issuing a title commitment. The title commitment (or “title binder”) is official verification that the title company will provide title insurance for the property upon closing.

How Long Does a Title Search Take?

Title searches can take longer when there are more records to review. As a result, title searches for older (or more legally encumbered properties) tend to take longer than title searches for houses with “clean titles.” That said, the average title search takes somewhere between 10 days and two weeks.

5 Common Title Issues to Know as a Homebuyer or Seller

When property titles come back as “dirty,” it’s usually because one or more of the following issues are involved. Some of these issues may be dealbreakers for completing a purchase, but others aren’t. So, as a buyer, it’s crucial you take some time to review the title report, ideally with your Realtor® or an attorney, to make sure:

  1. You fully understand the findings.
  2. You’re able to make an informed decision.

1. Liens

Property liens are legal claims associated with some outstanding debt. If a house has a lien against it, that generally means that the homeowner didn’t pay some and had a lien placed against their house.

Liens & Home Title Searches in Texas

The liens that can come up in title searches can include:

  • Tax liens
  • Bank liens
  • Real estate liens
  • Child support liens
  • Court judgment liens (e.g., a lien for a judgment from a civil lawsuit, like a personal injury case or a defamation claim)

Usually, property liens have to be satisfied before a lender will agree to finance a mortgage. In other words, if a lien comes up in the title review, the lender will want the underlying debt to be paid and the lien removed before funding the loan and completing the sale.

2. Illegal Deeds

Any deed-related issues associated with a house can emerge during a title search. These can include any problems with the chain of titles that point out:

  • Uncertainty around prior ownership: If a minor, an undocumented immigrant, or someone without sound mind has been named on a previous deed, past ownership of the house may be up for debate. In fact, this could raise allegations of fraud or forgery, depending on the circumstances.
  • Questions about current home ownership: If prior deeds for a house were not enforceable, there may be serious concerns about whether the current seller is, in fact, the rightful owner of the house.

If you encounter these title issues, talk to a lawyer or your Realtor® for some insight on your best options for moving forward.

3. Public Record Errors

Sometimes, title searches uncover issues that are relatively harmless and minor and that are fairly easy to rectify. That’s where public record errors come in. Occasionally, typos or clerical errors on documents can make their way into the public records associated with a property.

Deed Errors in Texas Title Searches

That could include title mistakes like (and not limited to):

  • Misspelled names
  • Transposed numbers in an address
  • Incorrect information about the property or its prior owners
  • Missing information

Whenever these or other types of public record errors arise in title searches, here’s what happens:

  1. The errors, now identified, need to be fixed on whatever document(s) they appear on.
  2. The deed will need to be filed once again, now with the proper information.

After that, closing can usually proceed as scheduled.

4. Unknown Heirs

If a homeowner passes away, (s)he may leave behind heirs, like children or spouses, who may have a claim to the property. In some cases, questions about the right to inherit can become the focus of extended, intense court battles, like when one heir raises a contest to a will, for instance.

A title search will clarify whenever these types of heir-related issues affect a property, giving you the chance to rethink a purchase if there are missing or unknown heirs involved.

5. Unknown Easements

Easements could give certain parties, like local businesses or government authorities, the right to use part or all of the land in question. If this is the case, you’ll want to know that before you buy a house, especially if the unknown easement could interfere with your intended use or enjoyment of the property.

How Can I Get Help with Closing on a Home in Texas?

Whether you’re buying or selling a house in Texas, you can get invaluable assistance with title searches and every step of the closing process from the experienced Realtors® at New Home Gurus.

Offering essential guidance with offers, negotiations, and all aspects of closing, we can help you move through the home purchase or selling process as smoothly as possible, saving you time — and giving you cash back at closing. That’s because the Realtors® at New Home Gurus split our commission with our clients after closing.

Homebuyers and sellers who work with New Home Gurus can get back an average of $4,500 to $12,000 at closing.

How Much Cash Can You Get after Closing?

Call (281) 668-8124 or Contact Us to Find Out Now

We are standing by, ready to share more answers and explain the details of our commission-sharing program.

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