The Transfer of a Property Title in California

The Transfer of a Property Title in California
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The title records for property held in California are contained in the county recorders throughout the state. They are a matter of public record that can be viewed by anyone. The title records are kept in abstract format, which shows the history of title including transfers and encumbrances. The transfer of title occurs when some form of transfer deed is recorded on a property. Transfer deeds come in three main forms: grant deeds, quitclaim deeds and warranty deeds.

Types of Transfer Deeds

To change title on a property in California, you must complete and record a transfer deed. The most common transfer deed used is a grant deed. This is because a grant deed implies that the owner issuing the deed has the right to do so and holds clear title. A quitclaim deed also transfers title, but does so without express or implied warranties as to the owner's claim on title. Grant deed and quitclaim deed forms are available at business stationery stores or online through most title companies. Escrow companies prepare grant deeds for a fee. Attorneys also prepare grant deeds, but these tend to be costly.

Requirements of a Transfer Deed

To complete a transfer deed, you must have the legal address of the property that is being transferred and the full name and vesting of the person or entity who is receiving the property. You must also complete a preliminary change-of-ownership form with the county where the property is located. The legal address is the tract, map, book and page description. This can be found online at any county recorder website. Title companies also provide a legal description of an address. The vesting is the legal statement of how a person holds title. Title can be held in different ways, by an individual or single entity to multiple individuals or multiple entities. Common ways to hold title include: a single man or woman, joint tenancy or tenants in common. The vesting can have important tax and estate consequences upon the sale of the property.

Change of Title Implications

A preliminary change of ownership form must be filed on each property transfer. In California, when a change of title occurs, the property may be subject to a documentary transfer tax which is $1.10 per thousand of the sale price of a property. Exemptions to the transfer tax include a transfer solely between family members or a name change whereby the percentage of ownership remains the same on a property. Property tax may be affected if the property assessed value is due to the change in ownership. There is no "reassessment" in California if the transfer is between related parties or the transfer changes the name only of an owner.


A change of ownership transfer can be performed by anyone with the correct forms and information on a property. Transfer deeds are available online or at most title companies' websites. In California, all transfer deeds must be notarized in front of a licensed notary and a thumb print must be placed in the notary’s journal. This is to prevent fraud from occurring during the transfer of title.