6 Signs of Trouble to Look for in Property Records

May 7th 2016

Being aware of the true history of the property and its current status in terms of boundaries and access is important because it helps you make an informed decision about your purchase. While there's no one right way to approach a property purchase, having sufficient knowledge helps you make the right choice for your circumstances.

Divorce in the Family

Because property record searches show all matters of public record, it's frequently easy to see if any changes have been made to the deeds that reflect a couple splitting up or other family trauma such as the house being moved from joint names to single person. While these situations can lead to cheaper prices for purchasers, emotional complications can mean the seller is more awkward to deal with than the average person. The other party to the divorce may also cause issues, so it's important to weigh the hassle versus your potential savings.

Flipping

Flipped houses — which have been sold again rapidly after being bought — are unlikely to gain much value even if they've been prettied up, so check the previous selling price carefully. Also, be aware that a short period of previous ownership may be the result of a difficult neighborhood or other unresolved problems.

Gaps

Another thing to note about property records is what's not recorded. For example, if a property sold in a public sale doesn't have a lien showing on its record, it's likely that an off-the-record lien has forced the sale, and as a buyer, you'll want to do further research to discover these details. Sadly, this is likely to cost more as further searches of the appropriate municipalities are needed.

A Cloud on the Title

If there are any gaps or doubts concerning a clear title in the property being passed from one owner to the next, the present owner doesn't have a clear marketable title, making it unwise to proceed with a purchase. A quiet title suit is required to remedy this, but you'll want the vendor to make this move rather than paying for it yourself.

Easements and Access

Check the property's records and any accompanying maps carefully to see if the neighbors or, even worse, the general public, have any rights of way or access over your land. These are most likely to occur in waterfront and rural properties, but they can be created anywhere, so even urban buyers should check for these potential blocks to privacy.

Boundary Issues

Check that the property as described in the agent's particulars matches the details on file. If any discrepancies exist, follow them up immediately. Whether the vendor is using land that technically belongs to a neighbor or vice versa, boundary confusions are a prime source of neighborly disputes and lawsuits. This means it's rarely worth proceeding in these instances unless the issues can be resolved before purchase.

Conclusion

When buying a new house, performing a thorough search of the property records is vital in making sure you understand all the important information about an estate. Some important items in particular help you make a final decision about whether or not it's worth making an offer, and if so, how much that offer should be.

Sources

About.com "How to search property records" http://homebuying.about.com/od/marketfactstrends/qt/0407PropSearch.htm
ThisMatter.com "Title records" http://thismatter.com/money/real-estate/title-records.htm
NAT.com "Title basics" https://www.nat.com/Title-Information/Title-Basics.aspx
FirstAM.com "10 common title problems" http://www.firstam.com/title/resources/reference-information/home-buyer-guide/10-common-title-problems/index.html

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