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Everything you need to know about deeds

Published: Oct 14, 2009

For the home buyer, the deed is the heart of the real estate transaction. Your real estate contract will specify the terms of the sale, but it's actually the signed deed that will transfer ownership -- called "title" -- of the home from the home seller to you, the buyer.

This legal document must be in writing and must be signed by the seller, and in many cases, by the buyer too. Your real estate broker and your attorney should be able to help you in drawing up this document.

Often it is necessary to have the document registered with the county recorder's office in the county where the property is located and to be signed in a notary's presence to authenticate the signatures.

There are several types of deeds, but the one that will protect you the most as a buyer is the warranty deed in which the seller promises that he does indeed have title to the property, has a right to sell the property and is transferring it to the buyer.

The seller also promises or warranties that there are no "encumbrances" (something that gives somebody other than the buyer a right to the property, such as liens) or "defects" -- errors or flaws in a deed that may affect transfer of the property. Very similar to the warranty deed is the grant deed.

The riskiest type of deed for a buyer is the "quitclaim" deed, which offers no warranties for the buyer. Make sure you speak with your attorney about the type of deed you'll be receiving and about any cautions, if any, associated with it.

Since the deed is a legal document that's crucial in the legal transfer of a home, it's crucial that you properly review the deed in its entirety before the transfer is completed and the deed is recorded. Among the items you should carefully check in the deed are:

  • The seller

    The deed must correctly identify the seller by name (and sometimes by address). The seller is known as the "grantor" in the deed.

  • The buyer

    As the buyer, you should be the "grantee" specified in the deed. Look to see that your legal name is spelled correctly, and if a street address or post office box for you is given, that it's correct.

  • The legal description of the property

    In the deed, your property will be described according to an accepted survey, which will refer to your property by lot number, section and possibly metes and bounds. The street address for the property may also be noted.

Finally, for a deed to become valid, it must be delivered to and accepted by both the buyer and the seller. Once every detail is properly executed with the deed, you are the rightful owner of your new home!

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