Perhaps, the most important document exchanged during Pennsylvania residential property transactions is the deed to the property itself. The deed is what gives the new owner the legal right to do what he or she wishes with the land, as no one can be handed a piece of land like one would give somebody an article of clothing or even a car.
The language of the deed is very important and will usually be taken quite literally should a dispute arise. In addition to reading and understanding the deed, it is also very important to understand what type of deed the person is being given.
The most common real estate deed, at least in an arm’s length transaction, is a warranty deed. This deed not only transfers to the person receiving the property legal ownership with respect to the pervious owner, it also comes with the former owner’s promise that title to the property is clear.
What this means is that if it turns out someone else down the road claims ownership of all or part of the land, the person who was promised clean title at the time he or she got the property sue the person who made that false promise. It is important to note that this is true even if the person who signed the warranty deed was not trying to deceive anyone.
The other common type of deed is the quitclaim deed, which is the equivalent of transferring legal title to the land in an “as is” condition. More precisely, the person giving a new owner a quitclaim deed is only giving whatever rights he or she has to the property, if he or she has any such rights as all. A person who receives a quitclaim deed has no right to complain to the person who gave the deed even if it turns out the person has no right to the land he or she received.
While quitclaim deeds are not usually used in a traditional sale of residential property, they are frequently used after a divorce or some other inside transaction between family members or friends, and they may come up when it is necessary to clear up some title issues.