What’s in a Title? What Massachusetts Homebuyers Need to Know About Deeds, Titles, and Searching for Both.

Know Before You Buy

When buying a home, especially if this is your first time, you may feel overwhelmed by all the new terms entering your vocabulary, terms which seem interchangeable to you but may have very different legal meanings. This is perfectly normal. In this article, we will set out for you the difference between a title and a deed in residential real estate sales. Additionally, we will cover the process of searching for and researching titles and deeds on a property, along with any pitfalls you may encounter in this process.


Title Vs. Deed: What Are the Differences?

In short, a title is the legal right to ownership of something. In the case of real estate, this is the ownership of a home or other property. In addition to legal protections, a titleholder also has legal responsibility for the property held (i.e. liability) and the right to sell the property, among others.

Not only real estate properties have titles. You may also be familiar with car titles, which are held by the bank or financing party until a car loan is paid off and then transferred to the purchaser. If you enjoy the life aquatic, you may also be aware that boats have titles as well. Many other types of property may also have titles.

A deed, on the other hand, is a legal document that transfers a title from one individual, individuals (such as a married couple), or corporation to another individual, individuals, or corporation. The person, persons, or entity selling or transferring the property is referred to as the grantor. The person, persons, or entity receiving is referred to as the grantee.

A deed is a physical document, on file in a local records office or courthouse, that represents the abstract concept of ownership, a title.


Deeds: Are They Public Information?

Yes. Deeds are public information, available for prospective homebuyers to search.


I Found the Deed. Can I Buy the House?

Not yet. In addition to the deed, the buyer (grantee) needs to execute a title search.


Title Search: What You Need to Know

A deed is just the record of one instance of title transfer. In order to close on a property, and be absolutely confident that you will face no challenges to your right to own, occupy, or sell that property, you need to conduct a thorough title search. This can be arranged either by your mortgage banker or by an experienced real estate firm, such as ours.

In a title search, in addition to deeds, numerous public records will be used to track the transfer of a property’s title over the years and ascertain who presently holds that title. Everything from loans, liens, and wills to divorce settlements and previous mortgages will be collected. After research, a title examiner will create a title abstract, which lists the history of the title’s ownership and establishes if present ownership is clear and uncontested. Then, closing can proceed.


How We Can Help

Disputes over titles are time-consuming and at times heartbreaking. You need absolute certainty before closing on a property. Our experienced real estate attorneys will be able to provide an unsparingly thorough execution of the title search process, in addition to helping you throughout the closing process. Call our office today to discuss your particular situation.

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