How to Prove Ownership of Real Estate

Image of old keys laying on a plain background. Captioned: How to Prove Ownership of Real Estate

You own real estate. If you’re asked, how do you show proof of your ownership?

Essentially, the proof is in your property’s title history. This means: 

  • Your ownership interest is only as good as the interest conveyed to you by the last owner; and
  • Others could have dibs on your property, if you used it to borrow money.

Of course, when you bought your home, the title company researched the chain of title to ensure previous owner had the right to convey to property to you. How do you check the chain of title now? The county keeps records. Many county websites make the information accessible online, so you can look up mortgages, other liens, and deeds that pertain to your property.

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What is the Chain of Title in Real Estate?

Image of a stack of papers with the question what is the chain of title in real estate.

In real estate, the chain of title is the history of the property’s ownership. When a property is sold, the title is transferred, and these transfers form the chain. Researching the chain of title is among the tasks performed by a title company when a buyer signs a contract to purchase a property. The chain of title for any property is found in the relevant county recorder’s office, and there’s no reason you can’t conduct your own search to determine the chain of title. All the information is in the public record. Keep in mind that state laws governing the recording of real estate transfers differ, so the chain of title process in one state may differ somewhat from the chain of title process in another.

Chain of Title Documents

Formal documents maintain the chain of title. The chain ends with the most recent document affecting the property. Types of documents included are:

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Avoiding Delays in Closing Pertaining to Defects in the Chain of Title

Any number of circumstances can delay or cancel a closing in a real estate transaction. Some issues are beyond control, but others can be easily managed by a concerted effort between the Realtor, the buyer, the seller, and the lender. The reasons for a delay or a cancellation can range from buyer’s remorse, rejection of loan, a failed home inspection, or a defect in the title. A Realtor should do all they can to avoid delays or cancellations.

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