Regarding real estate transactions, the deed is the foundational document that provides crucial information about property ownership. As a title searcher, you must ensure accuracy and thoroughness when reading a deed. Following ATR’s top five title-searching best practices will enhance efficiency and minimize the chances of missing important information.
1. Know the difference between the Effective Date vs. Recording Date
One of the initial steps in reading a deed is to differentiate between the effective date and the recording date. The effective date indicates when the deed was drafted and is typically found at the top left of the document. To avoid overlooking related documents, searching one day before the effective date is the best practice. Similarly, searching one day after the recording date, typically stamped on the top right, can help uncover any additional documents that might affect the property. This simple practice can significantly reduce the risk of missing important information during your title search.
2. Confirm the Names
Before proceeding with the title search, carefully reviewing the names mentioned in the deed compared to the search order is essential. This step ensures that you are searching for the correct individuals or entities. Occasionally, discrepancies may arise, such as outdated assessments or conflicting order information provided to you. By confirming the accuracy of the names, you and your clients can be confident that the appropriate parties are being researched.
3. Check the Block and Lot Numbers
The block and lot numbers are vital in validating the legal metes and bounds description. These numbers serve as additional validation points for the property, allowing you to cross-reference essential details such as outstanding mortgages, liens, and judgments. By diligently verifying the block and lot numbers and matching them to prior proof points, you can establish a solid foundation for further research and analysis of the property.
4. Read the Legal Description
The legal description of a property, often presented in a metes and bounds format, can be overwhelming due to its technical nature. However, within this description lie valuable clues that can enhance the accuracy of your title search. By confirming the lot size mentioned in the legal description, you can cross-reference it with the tax map and any filed maps listed. This triangulation of data ensures that you are searching for the right property and aids in obtaining filed maps, an essential document to complete your file. Always pay close attention to the details provided in the legal description.
5. Affidavits are Your Friend
One commonly overlooked page of the deed is the affidavit, which serves as a final check to confirm various critical pieces of information. The affidavit can help validate property information, including address, lot, and block numbers. The affidavit can even provide missing effective date information. By reviewing the affidavit, you can ensure that all important details have been addressed, guaranteeing a more accurate title search.
By incorporating these five title-searching best practices into your practice, you can increase the accuracy and efficiency of reading deeds. Consider the effective and recording dates, confirm the names, check the block and lot numbers, read the legal description carefully, and utilize the valuable information in the affidavits. These best practices will help you achieve greater accuracy when evaluating deeds, setting up your search, and ultimately pursuing an error-free close.
For more comprehensive information on best practices in title searching, we invite you to download our white paper “In Pursuit of The Error-Free Close.” This ATR resource will provide detailed insights and practical tips to enhance your title-searching skills further.