When you buy real estate, such as a house or a plot of land, the seller gives you a deed as proof that you own the property. The law generally requires that a deed be in writing to prevent disputes. But the language of a deed is so standardized that you can get a preprinted form in a legal stationery store. Each form has blanks to be filled in by the seller with specific information about the land. The seller is the grantor and you are the grantee. Protecting your interests Any land being sold (conveyed) must be described in detail. The description is usually in technical language “parcel lies 124 degrees northerly of Main Street, bound 90 degrees easterly by Fox Lane. ” Read that description carefully against the description in the most recent survey of the land; once you accept a deed, you own exactly what it says and nothing more.
Most deeds are bargain-and-sale deeds giving you complete ownership. Watch out if you are offered a quit claim deed. Such a deed gives you no more than what the seller owned-often less than full ownership. For example, the state may have filed a claim against the property because the seller neglected to pay property taxes; in such a case, you would own the property only after you paid the back taxes from your own pocket.
To make sure that the seller can give you complete ownership of the land, it’s important to check into the history of ownership (chain of title). Ask your lawyer to have a title search done to uncover any existing or potential problems.
Signing and Sling
The seller signs and dates the deed. Some states require witnesses to ensure that the seller is not being forced to give up the property.
Take your deed to the office of the clerk of the county where the property is located and record it there as soon as possible. If you don’t record it and someone buys your property, not knowing that you already own it, you might lose your land.