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A title search is a process that is performed primarily to determine the answer to three questions:
Anyone may do a title search. Documents concerning conveyances of land are a matter of public record. However, it is often the case that people choose to contact a title company or attorney to conduct an exhaustive title search. For example, a title report may also show any easements, or recorded legal rights to the property or portions of the property. A previous owner may have legally given a neighbor the right to share the driveway, or the city may have a right to strips of the property for putting power lines, communication lines, water pipes, or sewer pipes. A few on-line services offer title searches for relatively little cost, and their accuracy is not inferior to what a title company or attorney will offer; however on-line businesses rely mostly on electronically available information, and for that reason could at times be limited.
In the United States, the buyer of a property will usually purchase title insurance, which protects the buyer from any title problems that may arise after sale (such as liens that were missed during the title search). The title insurance company issues a report and issues an insurance policy in support of its findings. However, title searches are most often carried out before contracting is completed between parties and sometimes during the escrow phase of a closing.
A title search is also performed when an owner of a certain real property wishes to mortgage his property and the bank requires from owner to insure their transaction.
Generally, there are two main types of title searching, a full coverage search and limited coverage search; other types include non-insured reports and foreclosure guarantee search.
A full coverage search is usually done when creating a title report for sale/resale transactions and for transaction that involves construction loans. It generally includes searches related to property lien, easements, covenants, conditions and restrictions(CC&Rs), agreements, resolutions and ordinances that will affect the real property in question.
A limited coverage search is usually making title reports for refinance transactions that involves ownership equity loans and for making simple title guarantee reports.
This kind of title searching usually includes searches for property liens, liens against the owner and the other parties on title and search for bankruptcy proceedings against the owner of the property.
There are a variety of title searches which provide the customer with a report, but no insurance. These are for informational purposes only, and are called by a variety of names, such as Lot Book Report, Plat Certificate, 300-foot Radius Report, and others. These informational searches are used mainly in two instances:
A foreclosure guarantee is a type of report (e.g. trustees sale guarantee, judicial foreclosure guarantee and litigation guarantee) that is used mainly for foreclosing an encumbrances (or a lien) in a certain property. The title searcher will perform a full coverage search to the property in default and a search for the addresses of the lien holders to the property in default. The addresses will be used for sending copies of the notice of foreclosure letters (such as notice of trustees sale, etc.) to the lien holders to the property in default.
Home foreclosure is often linked with liens held by banks or governmental agencies. Multiple liens from various sources may be held against a property in foreclosure. If a home is sold at a foreclosure auction, the proceeds are divided paid to lienholders in order of filing until all proceeds are expended.
Public auctions (also known as sheriff’s sales or foreclosure auctions) are typically held in the municipal or county courts, which neither guarantee an unencumbered title nor offer protection to buyers against additional liens on the property.