How to Check Your Home’s Chain of Title
Before you purchase a property one of the most important things to find out is not only who the previous owners of a home were, but also how many previous owners there were. This is important for a number of reasons, but mainly because you want to know if there is a discrepancy with the person trying to sell you the home – maybe the home is older than it actually is. Also, you want to make sure the seller of the home is actually the current owner of the home. Getting a chain of title is easy, but it takes running a few errands and perhaps a few phone calls too. Here is how to check your home’s chain of title.
Your first step is to pay a visit to the county recorder’s office. Most counties have a very specific office that houses chains of titles that date back hundreds of years – if the home or property goes that far back. In addition, some properties go back hundreds of years, but the home on the property could be only twenty years old. You can either do a search online for the address of the office or you can go on your local government’s website.
You might also want to make an appointment with the county clerk or your local courthouse’s hall of records. There might only be a few specific days where you can actually visit the office and do a search of the records. All titles and deeds signed between a buyer and a seller must not only be kept in tangible form in a hall of records, but also they must open to public viewing. It is important to note that in some states the chain of title might be located in another building, so you might want to check with the county clerk before you make your visit or before you call for an appointment.
Next, when you actually get to the records, you must do an individual search of each title index. There might be thousands of files, so it might be wise to get a comfy chair. The title indexes, or deeds, should be arranged alphabetically according to the owner’s last name. There might even be a new grant or deed for each transference of ownership and if the property was built a couple hundred years ago, or more, your fingers might be doing a lot of work. Because the records must be kept in tangible form according to the current law, it might be a while before they are digitized.
Lastly, you will have to construct the actual chain of title to make sure that the current owner is actually the current owner or the real estate agent isn’t trying to pull a fast one on you. A chain of title should list the current owner as the actual, legal owner and link them all the way back to the original parcel deed listed by the U.S. government – when the actual property was issued. If there are any gaps in the chain of title – this might be a cause to raise suspicions. If you are inquiring to purchase a property you might have to dig a little deeper to find the real owner or you might have to open an investigation with the state.