Purchasing real estate is a great investment for most people. Buying your first home, office space or commercial property are excellent options for driven individuals. It is critical, however, to perform your due diligence and make sure that the real estate’s title is sound.
Just like people, a piece of property you buy has a history. This history can come back to haunt you if you act too hastily. Several aspects of a title should be investigated before you write a check, and the process can be quite complicated.
What to watch out for
There is a litany of issues that my affect a title – most of them technical and difficult to detect. Enlisting the help of an experienced professional to ensure everything is ship shape is one of the best ways you can advocate for yourself.
Just a few of the most common problems real estate buyers encounter include the following:
- Public record errors – Legitimate human error can lead to devastating complications. Something as seemingly minor as a clerical error can affect the validity of a survey or worse, creating major problems down the road.
- Unexpected liens – Just because property ownership changes hands that does not mean that debt stays with the seller. Previous owners may have neglected to mention that you will be inherited considerable bank debt along with the property.
- Unlawful deeds – While your title or deed may appear sound, there’s no telling if the owner three owners previous was a minor, undocumented or otherwise not legally able to buy property. This can affect the chain of owners after, including your present ownership.
- Absentee heirs – If an heir named in a will was meant to inherit property, but could not be reached, surviving family members may have resolved to sell the property. That missing heir may appear even decades later and expect to receive what they consider theirs. This can be avoided if nipped in the bud but is difficult to fight if it gets to this stage.
- Foraged documents – It may come as a surprise that forgeries are still common in real estate, especially in Philadelphia. Conmen will go to great lengths to create elaborate document forgeries, fake notary stamps and other implements to fool individuals into buying property they do not own.
These are only examples; something else entirely may be lurking in a title. It always pays to perform your due diligence.
All types of titles can suffer from these kinds of problems. Homes, businesses, industrial property and combinations of the three are all potentially at risk. Do not let an eagerness to buy prevent you from fully exploring your title.