Waiting for your house to close can feel like being stuck in a traffic jam. It takes forever, and just when you think you’ve gotten to the front of the pack, there’s another detour, and you’re back where you started. One of the elements that can make or break the selling or purchasing of a home is a property title search.

Before buying or selling real estate, title searches are essential, as they may uncover issues that could prevent the sale from going through smoothly. A buyer might find hidden debt or a lien (click for download of sample title search) that will make their lender back out, while a seller might discover they don’t even have legal standing to sell.

Performing a title search on a home you’re looking to buy or sell is ultimately for your own protection. Here are the top 5 reasons why you should run a title search:

1)  Title searches can verify the current owners and anyone else listed.

One of the primary reasons to perform a title search is to verify that the current sellers are indeed the true owners of the property. You can also see how many times the property has changed hands. A property that’s passed through multiple owners in a short period of time should raise alarm bells.

Additionally, it will reveal any other names that are associated with the home—like an uncle or aunt who might have co-signed back in the day and have never been removed from the title. You don’t want to find out after you move in that someone else is still connected to the property and can influence its ownership.

2)  Title searches can confirm the legal description and property identifier number (PIN).

It may seem tedious, but verifying the actual legal description and its corresponding PIN is an important legal step. For instance, if the realtor made a typo in the Agreement and inserted an incorrect number or description, you could find that you don’t own the house at all, or that you own something else entirely.

A survey is also a great way to see the actual build site and where the property lines are located.

3)  Title searches can check for easements on the property.

Easements can also be thought of as “right of way.” For example, suppose your next-door neighbor ALSO has a right to use the driveway to get to their property and/or the main road. There is a good chance that your neighbor has access to your driveway as well if it’s located between your two houses. You’ll want to find out in case any issues arise, such as a blocked driveway or driveway repairs.

4)  Title searches can find any bylaws registered to the home.

It is also important to check the house’s title for any bylaws registered to it. According to bylaws, for example, if the home has historical significance, you cannot renovate certain features or change the appearance; it is protected.

Is the home in a strictly residential area, or is it permitted to be partially used for commercial purposes? Is it possible to divide the property? Can you rent out the basement? Knowing the bylaws before you buy is the best way to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

5)  Title searches can discover any liens on the home.

A lien is when someone retains possession of another’s property until a debt that has been owed is paid. By searching for any liens, you can find out whether there is a mortgage registered against the property, and if so, who issued the mortgage. For example, if an undischarged mortgage is revealed, it must be discharged (paid) before closing. Additionally, it may be that the federal government has a lien on the property for arrears of income taxes or child support, or any other type of legal judgment.

Title searches help you see the complete picture/history of your property, so you won’t be caught off-guard, and your homeownership will not be affected. When you buy a house, there are many steps you will need to take. Knowing these steps will ensure that you are protected, and your investment will grow. Whenever you are buying or selling a house, condo, or cottage, make sure you work with experienced, knowledgeable professionals.

At Real Title Services, we specialize in quick, nationwide title searches without errors, so you feel at ease and close on your home without worry. We want to ensure your real estate purchase runs smoothly. If you need a title search for a home you’re looking to sell or purchase, call us today at (213) 375-1726 or contact us on our website.