What is a Title Search in Real Estate?

What’s a Title Search in Real Estate?

In real estate, a property title search is the process of sorting through documents to prove the history of a piece of real property.

A title search is an examination of public records to determine and confirm a property’s legal ownership, and find out what claims are on the property.

The search usually goes back at least 40 years! In my home state of SC, the paralegal for the attorney conducts the title search by heading over the courthouse and digging through property history.

If you are trying to purchase a property, a title search is performed primarily to answer these questions:

  • Does the seller have a saleable and marketable interest in the property?
  • Does the seller actually own the property and are there any other parties that have partial ownership?
  • Are there any restrictions or allowances on the use of the land? This could include zoning or the existence of easements on the land. (An easement is a path or road across a property that allows access to another piece of property.)
  • Do any liens exist on the property which need to be paid off at closing? These would be mortgages, back taxes, mechanic’s liens, and other assessments. (A mechanic’s lien is placed on a property by anyone not been paid for labor or supplies used to improve a property.)

So what does all this cost you as the homebuyer?

Here’s a quick rundown on approximate basic costs for your attorney, because I know you’re wondering:

  • Attorney fee $350-650
  • Title search $200-400
  • Title insurance (optional, but a good idea) $100-200
  • FedEx fees (mailaway closings, or sending documents to seller’s attorney) $25-95
  • Recording at the courthouse $12-50
  • Admin fees $35-50

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