A title search is a process that is performed primarily to determine the answer to three questions:
- Does the seller have a saleable interest in the property?
- What kind of restrictions or allowances pertain to the use of the land?
- Do any liens exist on the property which need to be paid off at closing (mortgages, back taxes, or other assessments)?
Anyone may do a title search. Documents concerning conveyances of land are a matter of public record. However, it is often the case that people choose to contact a title company or attorney to conduct an exhaustive title search. For example, a title report may also show any easements, or recorded legal rights to the property or portions of the property. A previous owner may have legally given a neighbor the right to share the driveway, or the city may have a right to strips of the property for putting power lines, communication lines, water pipes, or sewer pipes. A few on-line services offer title searches for relatively little cost, and their accuracy is not inferior to what a title company or attorney will offer; however on-line businesses rely mostly on electronically available information, and for that reason could at times be limited.
In the United States, the buyer of a property will usually purchase title inssurance, which protects the buyer from any title problems that may arise after sale (such as liens that were missed during the title search). The title insurance company issues a report and issues an insurance policy in support of its findings. However, title searches are most often carried out before contracting is completed between parties and sometimes during the escrow phase of a closing.
A title search is also performed when an owner of a certain real property wishes to mortgage his property and the bank requires from owner to insure their transaction.
Generally, there are two main types of title searching, a full coverage search and limited coverage search; other types include non-insured reports and foreclosure guarantee search.