I can’t find my Deed! Now what?

Posted September 28, 2019 in Real Estate Trends

Scott Hogan, Clark County WA real estate agent

Once a deed to real estate is recorded (filed with the County Auditor), the location or even existence of the original document is not important. It is not necessary to be able to produce the deed to be able to sell property. Title companies keep a record of recorded deeds so that we can see that the current seller bought it from a person or entity that, in turn, got a deed from their seller. That’s called a “chain of title” and our job is to trace that “chain” back (to statehood or a deed signed by a U.S. President, in some cases) to make sure that no one can claim ownership (or a loan or an easement) of your property.

This process of proving ownership of real estate is different from title to a car. For a car, you or your bank holds a Title Certificate. Having the original document, listing you as the owner, is proof that you are the owner. For real estate, if someone claims the deed in their hands is proof of ownership, you can’t be sure—even if the deed is recorded. You don’t know if they have already sold it to someone else, because they would still have their original deed—you don’t surrender it when you sell like you do when selling a car. You also don’t know if that person with the deed in their hand bought it from a person who had the right to sell it, or if that seller had a loan against the property, because such a loan is not disclosed like a car loan, on the title.

Only a title search can find and disclose matters that affect the title, and title insurance protects you in case something unexpected pops up. What kind of unexpected things? Loans that get paid off are one of the most common. What if someone that owned your house in 1995 paid off their loan and the lender dropped the ball, not recording the document that shows it’s paid off? Now, that old loan is preventing you from selling the property. That’s when you’ll be glad you got title insurance when you bought the house, as title insurance protects you in case the title to your property is “unmarketable” (defective in a way that a “reasonable person” would not accept a deed from you).

Title insurance may not be the most exciting part of buying a house, but it provides certainty in what otherwise would be a confusing mix of deeds, easements, loans, taxes, divorces, probates, CCRs—the list goes on and on. Let us help you and your team (Realtor, lender, attorney, home inspector and other professionals) help you accomplish your real estate plan—we know title insurance!

Scott Hogan

Clark County Title

1400 Washington St, Ste. 100
Vancouver, WA

3200 SE 164th Avenue, Ste. 219
Vancouver, WA 98683