Searching deeds online is a far sight better than traipsing from courthouse to courthouse looking up information on multiple parcels of land. However, there are still ways you can simplify your online search, and make the search tools work for you.
Online databases often use the same type of algorithm, logic, and tricks you can use for Google and other search engines. However, the tools in a proprietary database may require a little practice to master.
Researching property deeds is a common reason for using such databases as CourthouseDirect.com. Before diving in, make sure you understand what a deed is, the reasons you may have for searching for one or more, and something about the different types of deeds you may run across.
A deed is a legal document used to transfer the title for a piece of land from one party to another. Deeds are the most common documents found and used in a title search. They can be used to trace the ownership of a parcel as far back as the sovereignty of the land.
Deeds are always filed at the county level. The deed is placed on record at the county courthouse of the county where the property is located. Before online search was available, this meant a lot of traveling, manual search, and handwritten notes if you were interested in multiple properties across more than one county.
A deed is a public record, even if it originated with a non-governmental agency. As long as it is given to a public agency, it is a public record. That means anyone can access it. However, public records are not necessarily accessible free of charge. Depending on the tool used to find the deed and obtain a copy, you may be asked to pay a fee or other compensation.
Use caution if you find a service or tool that purports to allow you complete access to public records without charge. Free services do not always maintain up-to-date records or ensure the database is accurate.
Who Searches for Deeds?
Several professionals have reason to search for deeds.
- Property buyers search deeds for encumbrances and other issues.
- Landmen and other oil and gas professionals research deeds as they negotiate leases.
- Mortgage bankers and other financial institutions require a clean deed to lend money.
- If you are using your property as collateral, you may wish to check the deed for problems.
- Property sellers may search their own deeds before placing property on the market.
- Private investigators performing background checks or other services.
Researching a single deed at the courthouse isn’t difficult, but if you need to look into several, using an online database is the best way to go.
Why Search Deeds, Online or Otherwise?
The deed tells the story of a piece of land. As a foundational document, it is part of the title search performed to understand who holds valid title to the property. As noted above, buyers, those using land for collateral, and banks all have an interest in the deed to property for sale or lease.
Sometimes a private investigator will research deeds as part of a background check or to support a court case. Everyone who searches for a deed is looking for potential obstacles to selling or using the land, including liens, easements, covenants, mortgages, and unpaid taxes.
Needless to say, if the deed is clouded, the title transfer is usually stalled unless special steps are taken.
Types of Deeds and an Overview of Deed Interest
- Warranty deed - provides both conveyance and protection to both the selling party and the purchasing party. The warranty shows that the seller or property has no debt and that the right to sell exists. The warranty requires the seller to compensate the buyer if any problems or debts are discovered that are not listed in the deed.
- Special warranty deed - covers the time of ownership for the current owner and nothing before. You won't find the entire history of a parcel with a special warranty deed.
- Quitclaim deed - used for property transfers between related parties such as family members, divorcing couples, or friends. Typically, no money changes hands, and the property rights and claims are transferred to another party. However, there is no warranty or guarantee that there are no encumbrances or other issues.
- Bargain and sale deed - used in real estate sales or court-seized properties. It transfers ownership like a quitclaim deed, but there is also a transfer of money. Such a deed tells the buyer that the seller does not fully own the property or that there may be problems with the title.
- Grant deed - transfers the property along with any interest. The interest is transferred along with the deed for a previously agreed-upon price. It guarantees the property is sold free of debt. However, there is no guarantee of freedom from defects.
- Court-ordered deed - used for sheriff’s sales, master deeds, and other property sales that take place without the consent of the owner. Often it means the owner was unable to continue payments on the property.
How to Search for a Deed Online
First, you need a few pieces of information before you start your online search.
- The property address
- The name of the person who owns or has owned the property
- A date range to narrow your search if needed
If you can find the parcel identification number, you will have speedy search results, because that is the number assigned to a deed when it is filed with the county. It is a unique identifier, and when you use it to search an online database, it should result in a single deed popping up as a result.
A parcel identification number is also known as an assessor’s identification number, a map number, block number, or lot number. The parcel identification designates where the property is located and is used on all documents recorded about that specific piece of land.
If you don’t have the magic number, here are some search tips to help you cull the haystack a bit to find your needle.
- If the spelling of the owner, street, or other designation doesn’t bring up the deed you want, try alternate spellings. Public records are only as good as the humans who create them. Errors do slip in occasionally.
- If the name is hyphenated, you may need to try each name alone or other creative methods to find the correct record.
- Be sure you are searching the correct type of database. Most deeds are found in grantor/grantee indexes, but you can also find them in indexes of liens or through oil and gas leasing records.
- Use special characters in place of missing letters. A question mark (?) takes the place of a single letter while an asterisk (*) can stand in for multiple letters. (By the way, these tricks work with Google, too.)
Searching for deeds in an online database designed to help you find them is the quickest way to find the information you need. CourthouseDirect.com has a host of tools to help you find the deed you’re looking for.