When it comes to real estate education, there is plenty of information regarding the importance of the house deed, property titles, and having legal proof of ownership to your house. Further, there is plenty of discussion regarding different types of deeds, how they work, and which ones offer the best levels of protection for the buyer.
However, it’s easy to become stumped when you actually need to get the deed to your house. Having a copy of your deed is critical because it allows you to verify who has ownership interest in your property. Keep reading to learn how to get the deed to your house so that you can verify ownership and make sure there are no outstanding errors or legal issues.
What is the Deed to a House?
A deed to a house is a legal document that shows proof of ownership to a piece of real property. It’s also an instrument that is used to transfer property interest from one party to another. New homeowners typically get a copy of their deed at the time of transfer. However, this guide will go through additional ways you can find a deed to a house in case it gets lost, or you’re not sure who the true legal owner is.
You may also hear the term “property title” and wonder how it’s different from your house deed. The term title is conceptual in nature and describes the legal ownership or claim a party might have to a piece of property. The deed is the physical manifestation, a legal document, that proves this property interest. In other words, it shows who owns the house and who doesn’t.
In some cases, house deeds are simple and straightforward. One single owner who owns their house outright will sell their home to another single purchaser. However, there are instances when deeds can get complicated and tricky. There are cases in which the deed could be incorrect, or cases involving multiple owners who have equal claim to a property. Outside parties could also make a claim against the property, such as in the case of foreclosures or tax issues.
Be sure to read our House Deed: Definition guide for more information.
Why Does the Deed to My House Matter?
Having a properly recorded deed to your house mattress because it provides you with legal protections. First and foremost, it proves that you are the legal owner of a property, and thus have the right to take certain actions. Examples include taking out a new mortgage on the property or selling the property. If you were to buy a home under the table and never have a deed recorded, you would not be the title holder in the eyes of the law. Therefore, you wouldn’t have access to certain rights or financial tools that would otherwise be at your disposal.
Further, deeds become vital if any issues were to come regarding your property title. For instance, if any third party were to suddenly make a claim against your title, your deed would indicate what legal rights you may have.
For instance, If the property was transferred to you through a general warranty deed, you’d have the highest level of protection. The previous owner provided guarantees that they would be held liable for any title issues that could arise. It would be their responsibility to deal with any legal or financial ramifications for any title issues that stemmed from the time that they owned the house and earlier. In contrast, let’s say that you acquired a property through a bargain and sale deed. In this case, you were provided with no warranties or covenants whatsoever. If a third party were to make a claim against the title, then you would be left dealing with any resulting legal or financial fallout.
How to Find the Deed to Your House
In most cases, you should already have a copy of the deed to your house. However, life happens and perhaps you’ve misplaced it, or your closing agent did not provide it to you. There could also be certain circumstances, such as when you’ve inherited a house from a loved one but don’t have the proper paperwork. Whatever the case may be, it’s critical that you obtain the deed to your house right away.
Luckily, we’re here to help you do precisely that! Here are the 5 steps to finding and obtaining the deed to your house:
Deeds are a part of public records, so save yourself some time and trouble by checking online first. We recommend conducting a simple web search by inserting the name of your county or the county of the property in which the property is located, with the keyword “deed” or “deed search.” This should promptly provide search results that will point you to the appropriate county office in your area.
In some cases, this will take you to the website of your local County Recorder or equivalent. If you’re lucky, your county might even provide a self-service official records search site. From here, you may be able to look up your property, locate the deed, and download a copy of your deed onto the computer.
Be prepared to provide the owner’s name, property street address, and parcel number if you have it.
Contact the county recorder’s office
If you were lucky, you may have already located your deed and won’t need the rest of these steps. However, in some cases, a simple web search may not yield any results. This is especially true if your county doesn’t provide electronic records, or if the deed is older and has been archived.
If you weren’t able to find your deed online, then your next step is to contact your County Recorder’s Office. You can also pay them a visit in person. Here, you can speak with a customer service representative and request help locating and obtaining a copy of your deed.
Request the deed by mail
If visiting or contacting your County Recorder’s Office is inaccessible to you, you can also request your deed by mail. You will typically need to obtain and fill out the necessary forms, such as a Title Deed Request and enclose a payment. Even easier, your county likely offers a way to make the request by email and make your payment online.
Pay any associated fees
The fees for obtaining copies of a deed will vary by state and county. There is typically a flat rate for copies up to a certain number of pages, and then a fee per any additional page thereafter. However, the fees are not typically that expensive. The budget for roughly $10, although it may be more or less.
Also, check with your local county regarding methods of payment accepted. They often offer various methods of payment, such as credit card, cash, check, and money order.
Wait to receive the deed by mail
Last but not least, it’s time to wait to receive the copy of your deed by mail. (This is, of course, only if you requested a copy by mail.) Local government offices typically need several business days to process requests and send documents through the United States Postal Service. Estimate for a service time of roughly 10 business days. It’s a good idea to check with your respective county office to get an accurate wait time.
Once you receive your deed by mail, be sure to look at your deed and verify that you’ve received the correct deed. Further, verify that the information on the deed on record is correct and up-to-date.
Update your estate plan to include the deed to your house
Legal instruments such as deeds to houses can be complicated, but luckily, the process of getting the deed to your house isn’t.
In this guide, we went over several simple steps on how to get the deed to your house. Thanks to technology, you can often search for, locate, and download a copy of your deed through your county’s records search tool.
If you didn’t already have a copy of your deed, it’s critical to obtain it as soon as possible. This deed is the only legal document that can prove your ownership of your house, along with your right to sell it, take out a new mortgage against it, and so on and so forth. Reviewing your house deed is also an important aspect of planning your estate and understanding your rights to transfer your property to a loved one. Should you need to update your estate plan to include your house deed and instructions for the transfer of your home, we are here for you! Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning options today!
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