In real estate, both title and deed refer to the ownership of real estate or the interest a party might have in the property. A deed is a specific type of document, while title is a concept regarding ownership of land.
The term “title” applies to the evidence of land ownership. It also applies to actual ownership of real property or the right to ownership. Yet title is not the document that proves ownership. That document is a deed. The deed proves title.
The concept of the “bundle of rights” as it applies to land ownership comes from old English law. Those rights include right of possession, control, enjoyment, exclusion and disposition. A person holding title does not necessarily have all these rights.
In regard to title, a person might have equitable tile, legal title or both. In essence, legal title is held by the party who owns the property while one who has equitable title simply has interest in the property. For example, a buyer with an accepted purchase offer from a seller of land has equitable title in the land, yet does not hold legal title.
A buyer purchasing a home with a mortgage has legal and equitable title if in a lien state, yet only has equitable title in a deed state, as the lender holds legal title in a deed state until the buyer satisfies the mortgage.
A deed is a written document or instrument used to convey interest or title in real property. The party creating the deed is the grantor, and the grantee is the party to whom the interest or title transfers. But not all deeds convey title. For example, the quitclaim deed is the deed form which provides the least amount of protection to the grantee.
It simply conveys whatever interest the grantor has to the grantee. For example, if Mr. Jones issues a quitclaim deed to a grantee for a house on Elm Street, yet Mr. Jones does not hold title on the house, then the grantee does not gain title by benefit of the deed. But if Mr. Jones has title to the property, the quitclaim deed conveys title to the property to the grantee.
The statue of frauds is a part of state law that requires certain documents to be in writing in order to be enforced. Under the statue of frauds, a deed must be in writing. There are a number of deed forms, from the quitclaim deed which gives the grantee the least amount of protection, to the general warranty deed, which gives the grantee the most amount of protection.
With a general warranty deed, the grantor gives the grantee guarantees and warranties, which include the promise the grantor has title in the property to convey.
- NOLO: Deeds FAQ
- Key Differences: Difference Between Deed and Title
- Realtor.com: Deed vs. Title: What's the Difference? Terms Home Buyers Need to Know
- Florida Housing Coalition. "Sample Warranty Deed." Accessed March 30, 2020.
- Sacramento County Public Law Library. "Sample Grant Deed." Accessed March 30, 2020.
- Sacramento County Public Law Library. "Sample Quitclaim Deed." Accessed March 30, 2020.
- Sacramento County Public Law Library. "Sample Interspousal Transfer Deed." Accessed March 30, 2020.
Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.