The chain of title plays a significant role in the purchase and sale of real estate. A title company is responsible for tracing ownership and changes that establish a clean title for the buyer. Often, the trail could lead back to a previous century, alterations of a domicile or change to the land and its surroundings.
The Genealogy of Property
A property owner who is interested in the history and development of a municipality might decide to build a chain of title. This delves into previous owners, their families, the property use dependent on their place in society and a myriad of related events. In order to build a chain of title, begin with what you know.
Just as a genealogist builds a family tree, you need to examine the things that you already have available to you. This includes the deed to the property, current title, the physical property and its setting. The current title contains a paragraph linking you to the purchase of the property from the former owner (whose name is within one of the sentences).
Building Your Chain of Title
There are five simple steps to building your chain of title. Although they might be time-consuming, these steps are easy to accomplish.
Always assume you are the current owner – unless that is not true. If you are trying to find the current owner, use the Board of Taxes Database online. Here you will find current assessments, address of the property, name of the last owner of record and date of most recent sale of this property.
- With this information in hand, go to the City/Town Hall and into the Department of Maps, Urban Planning Office or the Assessor’s Office where you will find assistance by giving the Clerk the address of your subject property. The staff can find the plot map with the registry plan number and lot number on it. Often, they will be willing to make a copy of the plot plan for you.
- Go to the Department of Records where there are public access computers that allow you to research all documents of record from 1976 forward. To continue building your chain, you will need to view and read the transfer sheets for the property.
- Head over to the Department of Records or the Registry of Deeds with this information. You will be able to access property records or the transfer of deed from a seller to a buyer. This information will be in numbered books on their library shelves, online (internally) or stored on a microform sleeve, which may date back to the middle of the nineteenth century.
- The age and homestead laws of your state and municipality will tell you how far into the past you can dig. Remember, the United States is one of the youngest countries on earth and the last to undergo population growth. You may need to access the city archives, visit the county seat or go to the nearest and oldest Church with a burial ground to find information for earlier times.
The Chain of Title will end where ownership of the property began – or the last place you find and read information. Anything you wish to discover before that may need to come from immigration records and that will entail information about the individuals named as previous owners of the property.
The history of ownership to real property helps build a chain of title to a piece of real estate. It traces the property owner from the present day back to the original owner of record. Various informational pieces will give insight into distribution of estates, certificate of death, foreclosures and judgments of quiet title.
Title companies – abstractors – usually research the chain of title and provide a report in writing assuring the title is clear of any claims. Issuance of title insurance is dependent upon evidence in a clean chain of title.
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