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Poring Through the Historical Records.

A title search is a means of ascertaining that the person who is selling the property really has the right to sell it, and that the buyer is getting all the rights to the property that he or she is paying for.

Title companies examine several aspects during a title search. For example:

Chain of Title - This is simply a history of the ownership of a particular piece of property, describing who bought it and sold it, and when. The information may be derived from public records-usually from a County Clerk's or Recorder's Office-or obtained from title plants privately owned and maintained by title companies. Because the history of title goes back many decades, these records can take the form of index cards, punch cards, tract books, or one of today's digital formats. Regardless of format, these plants contain essentially the same information by which a title history can be determined.

Tax Search - This is a search to determine the present status of general real estate taxes against the property. If a buyer purchases property with unpaid and past due taxes or assessments against it, he or she is likely to find a government body -the village, county or state-placing the property up for sale to pay those taxes or assessments. Title insurance protects the buyer against loss from unpaid and past due taxes and assessments.

Report on Possession -
Title companies usually send inspectors to look at the property to verify the lot size, check the location of improvements, look for evidence of easements that are not shown of record and check on who is living there.


This eyewitness account supplements the information learned from the title search. For example, the inspector might detect an unrecorded easement or other evidence of outstanding rights that could affect the owner's title and possibly the value and intended use of the property.

Judgment and Name Search
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One of the most important parts of the title search is to determine if there are any unsatisfied judgments against the seller or previous owners which were in existence while they owned the title. A judgment is a general lien against the debtor's real estate and constitutes security for any money owed under the judgment. The real estate can be sold to satisfy the judgment.

It is extremely important to be sure that a title is not subject to judgments against the seller or previous owners. Title insurance provides this protection. A judgment against a person named Smith may affect the title of a seller named Smith, depending on whether or not they are the same person. So all possible variations of the name must be examined.

For example, the name Smith might be spelled Schmidt, Schmid, Schmidtt, Schmidz, Schmied, Schmiedt, Smid, Smythe, and so on. The name Nichols can be spelled 73 different ways, from Nachols to Nychals. The task is to determine which of these applies to the owner in question. First names have to be checked, too. There are 25 foreign forms of John, including Johann, Jehan, Hans, Shaun, Gudi, and Efom.

Commitment - When these searches have been completed, the title company issues a commitment to insure, stating the conditions under which it will insure the title. The buyer and seller and the mortgage lender can proceed with the closing of the transaction after clearing up any defects in the title which may have been uncovered by the search and examination.