What are Property Titles?
To say that property titles are important to real estate is an understatement. Most real estate purchases can’t proceed without a property title so many services verify, create, and vet property titles. Despite all this, in our experience, many of our clients don’t know or understand exactly what property titles are.
To help our clients and consultations better understand what services we offer and what goes into their house purchase, we want to explain.
What Are Property Titles?
Property titles are not actual pieces of paper. A title is your ownership of something, and you can–and likely do–own many things without having paper proof that you own it. When you see a paper referred to as a property title, it’s a written record of someone’s property title, but not the property title itself.
A record of your title is similar in practice to a receipt you receive whenever you buy something. You can prove you own something with it, but you don’t suddenly lose ownership of the item(s) because you don’t have the receipt. It simply becomes a lot harder to prove you own it, but you own it nonetheless.
How are Property Titles Tracked?
While the state and local municipalities don’t need to know who owns your groceries or any other personal items, they do need to track who owns real estate property. Because of this, each state records who owns what real estate property, and for how long so far.
Pennsylvania makes note of who owns a property and even lists the property’s exact location and the owner’s details. This information is available to the public as per PA’s Right to Know Law. This means anyone can request to know the location or owner of a property, though to even make a request, the person has to already roughly know the location of the property or the owner. This does not give the public access to anyone’s tax records, just that they own the real estate property. As a part of a property title, the state and local municipalities will keep a record of a property’s:
- Deeds of trust
- Grant deeds
- Special warranty deeds
- Quitclaim deeds
How Do You Get a Record of a Property Title?
While you technically receive a property title when you purchase a real estate property, you should know where you can get copies of the record. You may need a copy proving your ownership of the title for tax purposes, creating trusts, for a prenup, after a divorce, or after someone tries to claim ownership of your property.
You can request a property record from your local deeds office or your local tax assessor’s office.
When is Someone Not Allowed to Request a Property Record?
There are many instances where someone would not be allowed to request a private property’s public record. These instances include:
- When disclosing someone’s location could potentially pose them or someone else harm.
- When the record could reveal an individual’s medical, psychiatric or psychological history, or disability status. This includes results of health-related tests or enrollment in a health care program. This information could potentially be revealed by a grant attached to a property record.
- When the records contain personal identification information. This can include:
- Social security numbers
- Driver’s license numbers
- Personal financial information
- Home, cellular, or personal telephone numbers
- Personal email addresses
- Employee numbers
- Spouse’s name
- Marital status
- Beneficiary or dependent information
- When the records contain the home address of a law enforcement officer or judge
If the idea of people being able to search your information is frightening, don’t worry. The most information that most people can receive is your name. Your address is protected in most circumstances, and other important information is also protected.
What Should You Do if You Want to Buy/Sell a Property Without a Copy of the Title?
While you don’t need a copy of a real estate property title yourself, you should have a title insurance attorney run a title search on the property. The attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam can make sure that everything looks good with the property title. If there is an issue such as a lien or an easement, you’ll know about it before you complete the purchase or sale.
We have a licensed title agent ready to assist you with your title needs. We also provide title insurance through Keystone Abstract Services to help streamline the real estate process. If you’re considering a real estate transaction in Northeast Pennsylvania, get the protection you need from any issues with the title. Contact the title insurance attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam today for more information.