For many people, buying property in South Florida is a dream come true. Unfortunately, that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare, especially if the proper due diligence is not conducted before the purchase is made. That’s why it is crucial not only to enlist qualified legal, financial and real estate professionals, but also to have a fundamental understanding of the home buying process yourself.
One of the most important parts of this process is the initial title search, typically performed once a property is under contract. To better understand the title search process in Florida, let’s take a closer look.
To begin with, it is important to understand some of the terms commonly used by Florida real estate professionals and attorneys. So let’s start from the top.
A title is legally defined as the right to inhabit and use the space in question. Because it is not solely contingent on the transfer (sale) of the property, this right is not unassailable. In fact, a title can be – and often is – challenged based on past rights and claims made by others. In a worst-case scenario, past claims or liens may result in the loss of a considerable amount of money, or even your new dream home entirely.
A title search is the process in which someone does an exhaustive review of past records associated with a specific property. These records typically include, but are not limited to, court records, deeds, liens, mortgages, and property and name directories.
Title searches are done to confirm that the seller can lawfully transfer ownership, and to unearth any issues that could adversely affect the transaction. In most cases these are:
- title deficiencies
- outstanding taxes
- unpaid mortgages
- judgments against the seller
- land use limitations
How to do a title search
In some cases, the mere thought of doing a title search is so overwhelming and intimidating that the buyer simply defers to a title company. Although the process is time-consuming, it isn’t difficult – if you know where to look and what you are looking for.
All you need to get started is the property description, lot number and parcel number. You can find these at the tax assessor’s office in the area where the property is located. Once you have that information on hand, you can use it to find more information at the county clerk’s office or courthouse. There, you can ask to see the titles and deeds associated with the property or properties in question.
The information you need from the title search includes:
- the owner’s name,
- when the title was recorded,
- details pertaining to any associated liens or encumbrances on title
- details pertaining to any other restrictions or limitations
If you don’t have time to do all the actual legwork, the best option is typically to contact a real estate attorney or title company, like Eskander Loshak LLP. For a small fee, we can perform an exhaustive title search that will locate any issues with a property’s title. More importantly, we’re actually able to insure the title to a property, so that neither buyer or seller are responsible for any issues that may arise in the future.
Moreover, you can use information from a title search to make sure you are not assuming responsibility for an “unclean” title. An unclean title is one with liens that could potentially result in legal headaches and difficulties for you as the buyer – something we all want to avoid.
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask for help
As you can probably tell, title issues can be complicated. By running a title search yourself, you may be able to spot deficiencies, but the risk of unwanted problems will always linger. Save yourself the headache and contact our office today to learn how Eskander Loshak LLP can conduct your title search, issue title insurance, hold money in escrow, and ultimately help you buy your South Florida dream home. Call us today to schedule a consultation at (954) 334-1122.