Real estate purchase agreements are governed by contract law. Real estate buyers generally employ an attorney or title insurance company to research the title. This process, called a title search, involves examination of the public records.
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The title searcher will go through the county’s public records and assemble a chain of title by finding all recorded deeds for the property in question. He or she will also look for encumbrances on the property. Encumbrances include but are not limited to:
- Unpaid taxes.
- Legal judgments.
- Municipal improvement liens.
- Government claims.
A title insurance company insures the buyers against losses caused if the title is discovered to be invalid. The seller is required to execute and deliver a deed which includes a legal description of the land. Many states require that this deed be officially recorded to establish ownership and notice of its transfer.
In Iowa, the state-run Title Guaranty program operates to identify title problems before ownership is passed to a buyer and involves attorneys completing opinions of title based on abstracts to notify buyers of any potential title problems.