When someone has the title to a parcel of real property, it means that they possess formal proof that they are the owners of that property. That’s what title is: it’s how you prove that this is your house, your land, and that you have the right to use it or sell it if you should choose to do so. And when someone is looking to buy real estate, they need this proof to pass on to them, and to be solid. After all, once the land is theirs, they need to be able to supply that source of proof as well. That’s why an attorney for a buyer in a real estate transaction conducts a title search.
In the course of a title search, an attorney will dig into everything that is available about the property at issue within the public records of the municipality or county whose jurisdiction the land falls under. This includes recorded instruments, mortgages, liens, deeds, tax records, and court cases—all going back about fifty years. The goal of this in-depth process is to sniff out a definite “chain” of ownership stretching back through time, in which all of the property’s previous owner could be considered “links.” Moreover, the attorney will examine everything that happened with or to the property throughout the duration of each prior owner’s period of ownership.
There are instances in which an attorney can look back only as far as a previous title insurance policy’s date. This particular form of search is referred to as a “start,” “tacking,” or a “base of title,” since this is a starting point accepted by the companies that provide title insurance to purchasers, as they are willing to rely on the previous title search—which is to say, the new title policy “tacks onto” the previous one. This form of title search is less comprehensive, and takes less time, but is also less thorough and potentially less reliable.
The goal with all of this is to come as close as possible to guaranteeing that no problems have been found with a seller’s right to sell the interests they claim to be selling in the property. This permits a seller to buy with a relative lack of worry.
Naturally, the best course of action for a real estate purchaser is to consult with an attorney qualified to perform a thorough title search. If you’re looking to invest in real estate in Tempe or anywhere else in the state of Arizona, Provident Law’s real estate attorneys stand ready to help. We structure, negotiate and document a variety of real estate and financing transactions, such as leases, purchase and sale agreements, loans and development agreements for a variety of commercial and residential projects, and we ensure title passes from one owner to another. Contact us for more details.
Christopher J. Charles is the founder and Managing Partner of Provident Law ®. He is a State Bar Certified Real Estate Specialist and a former “Broker Hotline Attorney” for the Arizona Association of REALTORS ® (the “AAR”). Mr. Charles holds the AV ® Preeminent Rating by the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings system which connotes the highest possible rating in both legal ability and ethical standards. He serves as an Arbitrator and Mediator for the AAR regarding real estate disputes; and he served on the State Bar of Arizona’s Civil Jury Instructions Committee where he helped draft the Agency Instructions and the Residential Landlord/Tenant Eviction Jury Instructions.
Christopher is a licensed Real Estate Instructor and he teaches continuing education classes at the Arizona School of Real Estate and Business. He can be reached at Chris@ProvidentLawyers.com or at 480-388-3343.