Many years ago as I embarked on my real estate career, one of the instructional classes I took was on deeds and legal descriptions. This class taught us to check the owners of the properties we were listing, making sure the owners and addresses matched the actual potential listing owner and the address. Has one of the deeded owners passed away? Will we need a death certificate to pass title? What about married sellers with only one name (possibly the wife’s maiden name) on the deed? Will we need documentation? It taught us to plot out the coordinates and how to figure acreage and shape of the lot, and possibly, if the lot closes. In those days we had to put the lot dimensions on the listing . . . did it match the tax record plot plan? It could also tell us if there were oddball (and now illegal) deed restrictions. To be short and to the point, it taught us to read the deed. Lots of information may be gleaned from that deed.
Now, I’m not that title savvy. I’m not that good that I can figure out if the lot necessarily does or doesn’t close. But I can determine if the names on the deed match what the seller is telling me. Most of the time I can determine what the approximate acreage is from the deed and know enough to read through the entire deed just to see if any red flags go up.
Which brings me to those red flags. When you read the deed (and I know we all read every deed for every listing . . . and if you aren’t, you should) if something jumps out at you like the names don’t match, if you see the words “exclusion” or “exception”, or if the chain simply doesn’t sound right or make sense, look a bit closer. And if it still doesn’t make sense or if you have questions, pick up the phone and call your title person since I know they’ll be happy to take a look and let you know if there’s a potential issue. It’s not always wise to rely on the accuracy of the tax records. We’ve welcomed technology and shortcuts, but some things should not be circumvented. Our clients expect a certain level of care and expertise, and a search or clarification now can save you from the hot seat later.
Nancy Sarley, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices HomeSale Realty
Facts, opinions and information expressed in the Closing Comments Blog represent the work of the author and are believed to be accurate, but are not guaranteed. The Lancaster County Association of Realtors® is not liable for any potential errors, omissions or outdated information. If errors are noted within a post, please notify the Association. Posts represent the author’s opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association.