What is a clear title?

If you’re about to buy a home, how do you know the seller owns it? (This is not a trick question.) Without a clear title – one free from liens – your lender won’t lend, your insurer won’t insure, and there won’t be a sale. Worse, if somehow there is a sale and the title is found to be defective, you can actually lose the property.

Clear title definition

A clear title, also known as a “clean title,” is a property title that is free from liens or additional issues that could jeopardize ownership, such as boundary disputes (encroachments) or easements. With a clear title, there’s no doubt who the owner of the property is, or who can claim legal ownership of the property.

To get a mortgage, lenders require a thorough search through local property records to ensure the title is clear.

How to check for a clear title on a property

As a homebuyer or seller, you can visit your local town clerk’s office or attempt to do an online search for the property’s title history. This will tell you what’s in the official records, but it won’t tell you what isn’t there – and there may be other records that’ll need to be checked, as well, such as building permits and zoning rules, which can limit property rights.

When getting a mortgage in Connecticut, your lender will need to work with an attorney, as only an attorney can issue a title policy in Connecticut. Ask your attorney to reach out to Fusion Title Search to complete your title search for you. Often, borrowers are asked to pay an astronomical fee for this search as part of the loan’s closing costs. Fusion Title Search keeps your fee to a minimum while ensuring the best accuracy and quality in the State of Connecticut.

Issues with the title and how to resolve them

Given that property ownership is documented in local Town Clerk’s offices, it might seem as though there should be few, if any, title defects. What can be wrong with a property title? Fusion Title Search, one of the largest in the Connecticut, has a list of some 70 possible defects, including:

  • A forged deed
  • An undisclosed divorce
  • Undisclosed tax liens
  • A disputed will
  • Mechanic’s liens
  • Zoning violations

While they’re not common, if the title search uncovers an issue (or if it doesn’t, but one comes up later), there can be considerable legal costs. This is where title insurance comes in.

Remember, too, that while title insurance policies cover a lot of potential issues, they don’t cover all of them. If an issue does come up, it’s best to speak with an attorney who specializes in real estate matters to resolve any questions before you buy.

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