As Maggie points out, there can be liens on the property for any number of reasons: unpaid bills, unpaid taxes, unpaid utilities, unpaid repairs.
Or let's say the owner has the deed. But the owner is divorced, and the ex-wife comes along and says that she deserves half the house. Or suppose the owner has a child--even one he may not have known about--who says that he or she is entitled to the house.
You absolutely need to verify clear title.
Hope that helps.
You've received some good advice from both Michael and Nicholas.
In addition, I would add that the reason you need a title search is to make sure that the current owner of the property has not done anything to encumber the property, and create a "cloud" on the title.
For example, the Seller could have left a bill unpaid for work that was done on the home, such as a new roof. The roofer would then file a lien at the county courthouse.
Without a new title search, you wouldn't know this, and could find yourself, as the new owner, responsible for the bill. Even a Seller's unpaid medical bill could result in a judgment and a lien that attaches to the property. So make sure you have a new title search done.
Also, a new deed needs to be created, with you as the owner, and recorded at the county courthouse. This is your "proof" of ownership.
The attorney or title company that conducts your closing needs to perform the title search and examination, and issue your title insurance policy.as well. All of these things protect your interest in the property, so please don't try to buy without obtaining professional help. Good luck with your purchase.
Maggie Hawk, REALTOR
Watson Realty Corp.
Even if the seller owns the home outright and owes no mortgage on it, and even if the buyer is paying cash and not obtaining a mortgage in order to buy...I would most certainly demand that a title search be done to protect you as the buyer...it is relatively inexpensive, and could save you countless dollars in the future should title issues crop up down the road.
Good luck :)
What kind of a deed is the seller giving you, anyway, Annes?