There are many different types of titles: job titles, book titles, name titles (Mr., Mrs., etc.), car titles and house titles. A title search, in regard to house titles, refers to the official process of identifying who has legal ownership of a property and whether or not that property can be legally sold to another person. While this process can be done by anyone, it is most beneficial if you hire a title company to comprehensively perform this process. Title searches can get very complicated; if every nook and cranny is not explored, something important may be overlooked. If that happens, you may be at risk of losing the house you want to purchase – or you may be hit with unforeseen expenses.

Liens. If the previous owner owed money to another person or company, the creditor could place a legal claim against the property. The lien must be paid off in order to clear the title to the property. For example, if the previous owners had a new roof put onto the house but didn’t pay the roofing company in full, and that outstanding debt was not discovered during the title search, you, as the new owner, would be responsible for paying the debt. One way to avoid this disaster is by getting title insurance as part of your home-buying process.

Distant, out-of-the-picture owners. If there are actually multiple owners of a property, but only one owner is making the sale, the other owners could come out of the woodwork after you purchase the home to take back what is theirs. For example, if three estranged siblings inherit their parents’ home but only one attempts to sell it, a good title search would identify that two other people must sign off on the home sale. If the seller is simply taken at their word that they own the property, without a proper title search, there could be snags down the road.

Public record errors. It’s important to make sure all documentation regarding deeds and titles is done correctly and accurately. Title searches can identify any filing or clerical errors that could result in expensive and time-consuming delays.

There are many other situations that can arise during a title search. But if you have a team of professionals on your side, you’ll be prepared to tackle any home buying challenge that arises.