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Stewart, Old Republic, First American

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What does a title search look for?

Ownership History

A title search includes in-depth research of a property’s current and previous owners—even the individuals who owned the land before it was developed.

Title Defects

A title is defective if parties other than the seller can lay claim to the property. If defective, title cannot legally be transferred to the buyer. Forged signatures, missing heirs, competing claims of ownership, and errors in public records are just a few examples of title defects.


An encroachment is when another person builds a structure on another person’s property. For example, someone might add a garage on the edge of his property but build part of the garage on his neighbor’s property. This obviously isn’t ideal for the neighbor and may be an issue for future buyers.


If a property owner fails to pay creditors, a lien can be attached to the property until the owner pays what he or she owes. Failing to pay taxes, getting behind on the mortgage, losing a court case and being unable to pay the amount due, and refusing to pay contractors for their work, are just a few reasons a lien might be applied to a property. A property can’t be sold until all liens against it are addressed.


An easement is legal permission to use another’s land for a specific purpose. For example, a utility company may have an easement to install power lines, a neighbor may have an easement for a shared driveway, or a farmer may have an easement to store equipment in a shed. Buyers need to be aware of easements and decide if they are willing to comply with such stipulations before purchasing property.


A property may come with restrictions set by various parties. For example, a home might have a homeowners association with cosmetic restrictions or changes to a historical home may have to be approved by a historical society. These are just a couple examples of property restrictions. Buyers must decide if they’re willing to purchase a property despite such restrictions.