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What are Title Reports and Why are they Needed?

I want to explain the process of examining a title and show the problems that a Buyer and Seller can encounter when reviewing the title report.

When someone owns real property, he is said to be “in title.” This means that he is the Party whose name is on the deed and (we hope) that the deed is on record in the County Clerk’s office in the county where the real property is located. When that Party wishes to sell his property, the Purchaser will order a report to be done on the title to make sure the Seller really has the right to sell and that there are no claims against the Seller or the property that will render title “unmarketable.” For instance, the record could show that there is a “gap” in the chain of title. This means that somewhere in the chain of ownership there is a name missing or a name that shows up out of nowhere. An example of such a gap is shown below:

1926 - Smith conveyed to Jones
1938 - Jones conveyed to Taylor
1951 - Taylor conveyed to Barrett
1967 - Johnson conveyed to Simmonds

What happened to Barrett? This is the gap we talked about. Now it is up to the Seller’s attorney to fill in the missing name or explain what has occurred to the satisfaction of the Buyer and his attorney.

There are several explanations which are plausible. To wit:

1. Barrett died and Johnson is the heir. A Will or an affidavit of heirship will fill in the gap.

2. Mr. Barrett died and Mrs. Barrett remarried a Mr. Johnson.

3. Barrett conveyed to Johnson in 1960 but the deed was misfiled against the wrong lot number. Contacting the title company which insured the title to Johnson will be the first step in clearing the problem. The old title company will correct the error and the record will be put straight.

4. Mary Barrett bought in 1951, married Thomas Johnson in 1958 and sold the property to John and Anne Simmonds in 1967.

5. Johnson was an adverse possessor who for more than ten years openly, notoriously, adversely, continuously and exclusively occupied and maintained the property.

Knowing who is the true owner of the property to be conveyed is only the beginning.

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