Buying or selling a home involves transferring the property's title. A deed is a document that transfers an owner's interest in a home to an individual or a business. The party transferring property is a seller, or grantor, and the party receiving ownership is the buyer, or grantee. A deed can transfer property title without a sale or exchange of money, such as with a gift or as part of a divorce agreement. Recording the deed is the final step in transferring property title.
Conditions for Conveyance
Property title transfer via a deed is known as conveyance. A home is not legally conveyed unless the deed meets certain requirements. The specific requirements a deed must meet may vary by state, but in general, the deed must contain at minimum:
- A detailed legal description of the home being transferred.
- The legal name of the person receiving title or the business entity's name.
- The grantor's signature, acknowledged by a notary.
A grantor must be of legal age and have the soundness of mind to transfer property. The grantee must be identified with accuracy. For example, names must be spelled correctly and a past name, such as a maiden name, may be included. If transferring to more than one individual, such as various relatives or a business partnership, the manner in which the co-owners hold title to the home, or vesting, must also be included. The rights to title being transferred, such as fee simple or life estate, may also need to be on the deed. It also may need to state what the seller received in exchange for the property, such as a monetary amount or "love and affection," if gifted. The item given in exchange is known as consideration.
You can locate a property's legal description, also known as a land or lot description, in several ways. The description is a series of written words and numbers that pinpoint the property's precise location and boundaries. A real estate attorney or title company in your state can provide your property's legal description, ensuring that it's valid and complies with local and government rules, according to RocketLawyer. For example, the title company that issued the property's last title insurance policy, usually can provide the legal description free of charge.
Reasons to Retain an Attorney
Although you can draft a deed using templates available online or from a title company, consult a real estate attorney before signing away your real estate or accepting a property transfer. An attorney can facilitate a legal transfer of title by ensuring:
- The deed document is appropriate for the type of transaction.
- The correct parties have signed the deed.
- The manner in which the new owners hold title, or vesting, is accurate.
- The precise interests being conveyed are listed on the deed.
The vesting on a deed can have serious tax and legal consequences for the new owner or a business. A grantee should consult a tax expert and real estate attorney to ensure full understanding of the ways to hold title and how vesting could affect them in the future. The most common ways to hold title for an individual or business are solely, jointly, tenants in common or variations of these.
Ready to Record the Deed
In addition to preparing the deed, an attorney can also record, or "file," the deed with the appropriate government office. In many states, the grantee can choose whether to have the deed filed with the local land records office. However, recording the deed adds an additional measure of protection for the grantee, as it puts the public on notice of the property transfer. The order in which it's filed relative to other documents, such as a mortgage or other lien, also determines the priority of claims to the property's title.
To be considered legal, the deed must be delivered to and accepted by the grantee.
Karina C. Hernandez is a real estate agent in San Diego. She has covered housing and personal finance topics for multiple internet channels over the past 10 years. Karina has a B.A. in English from UCLA and has written for eHow, sfGate, the nest, Quicken, TurboTax, RE/Max, Zacks and Opposing Views.