Doing your ownTitle Search - Posted by Doug (NC)

Posted by John(NC) on March 27, 2006 at 13:11:25:

When you find out PLEASE let us know.I feel like I’ve been raked over the coals,dealing with attorneys in this state.

I wonder what would happen if I billed them for the time I’ve spent trying to correct their mistakes?

As far as I’m concerned,they are only as good as their help,considering they do 90 percent of their work.


Doing your ownTitle Search - Posted by Doug (NC)

Posted by Doug (NC) on March 27, 2006 at 07:55:43:

I have a friend who wants to buy an investment property but doesn’t want to incur the cost of a title search, in case she decides not to buy that property. What are the steps for doing this on your own? Thanks.

Re: Doing your ownTitle Search - Posted by Kristine-CA

Posted by Kristine-CA on March 27, 2006 at 23:22:01:

This is just me but I don’t do that much title stuff anymore before
getting a contract. A contract states what the purchase price is and the
terms. One of the terms is marketable title. So if the encumbrances
are too high the deal doesn’t fly. If the seller isn’t the seller than the
deal doesn’t close.

The point of the contract is to get something in writing and give you
some interest in a property. The title thing gets worked out later. The
purchase price can be adjusted when the real title picture is known to
both buyer and seller.

I have lost many deals to other buyers who signed up the sellers while
I’m busy consulting with lawyers and doing title research.

BTW, where I am, my escrow/title company does not charge me for a
title report (or other fees) when the escrow doesn’t close. It’s part of
their cost of doing business, I guess.

Doing your ownTitle Search - NOT brain surgery - Posted by John Behle

Posted by John Behle on March 27, 2006 at 18:01:28:

It is fairly simple to do a title search and it DOES make good sense to check titles before spending money on a deal.

It can range from just a quick trip to the recorder’s office to one simple button click on a computer. Let’s look at the worst case scenario which is doing your own work at the recorder’s office.

You do an “Abstract of Title”. It’s simple. You start with the latest document and just work backwards. You don’t necessarily need to go back to the Louisianna Purchase, maybe just a few years. You may only need to go back to the last time the property was sold and a new loan was put on by a conventional lender. At that time, there would have been a policy of title insurance.

You’re just looking for errors. You’re looking for things that are going to make th property unsaleable or difficult to buy and close. You want to identify problems before you waste time and money.

Once you pull the documents, you put the puzzle pieces together. You see where a loan was created, then paid off and released. You see where the current owner took title and can trace it back as far as you want. You see any outstanding liens, or whether the property has been in foreclosure before or is currently in foreclosure. It can be done in a few minutes and can prevent a waste of time and money if there are problems. It can also give you an edge. You find out a seller that acts like they are not motivated is going to lose their property to foreclosure in a couple weeks. You find a seller trying to mis-represent the number or amount of loans. You find problems that need to be fixed before the deal closes. Way too many times the “professionals” don’t find them or find them too late and a deal dies because of it.

Other times a title company will run a free PR or “Preliminary Title Report”. They may do a quick search - without the insurance. Some will do it for free. Others will do it cheaply. Some will let you use their computers or “title plant” which may consist of microfiche in their basement that mirrors what you would find at the country recorders.

A friend of mine had a good contact with a lady that worked at a County Recorder’s office. For ten bucks she would do a title search for him at her break or on her lunch hour. If you end up checking many titles, you can train an assistant to do it very easily. I had one of my assistants that worked all day long right in the same area of the recorder’s office as the title company researchers. I used to take people at my bootcamps down to the recorder’s office and we would search the titles of notes we were looking at together. It can be fairly simple.

Now, on the other end of the scale, more and more county recorder’s offices are getting good information available to the public on computers. One of my local ones has a simple button titled “ABSTRACT” and one click and I have an abstract in front of me. Seconds to know all I need to know about the title.

Now, that is just preliminary. I would never suggest you rely on it forever. It is a title report for free before expendind the NECESSARY money for title insurance later. At times in buying a note I do not get title insurance, but I do not recommend it for others. Most of the time, I do get insurance though and it is unwise to take that risk without extensive knowledge.

But, time and time again I have been aided by doing a quick title search. I’ve dropped deals that I find were mis-represented. I’ve solved complex problems that a title company might not have tackled or would have taken too long to do. I’ve weeded out sneaky sellers and problem properties. I’ve discovered seller’s true motivation and made better deals. I’ve found private loans and liens that I’ve discounted for extra profit or just to pull the deal together.

I’ve also weeded out snakes and scams. Having an “Abstract” gives a great deal more information than what you get from a title company. The sad news is most title companies do not even remember what an abstract is and it can be hard to get one through them.

It’s a valuable process to learn and can save time, money and deals. But, again, it is only preliminary and title insurance is necessary for protection.

title companies - free service - Posted by Lin (NC)

Posted by Lin (NC) on March 27, 2006 at 16:40:06:

As the others have said, a real title search and title insurance should not be skimped on to save a buck, but I will assume this preliminary search is to get a ballpark idea of what is owed, any easements, etc.

I used to order what were called “list kits” from the title insurance and escrow company who performed my closings. All they needed was an address. The title company compiled copies of the deed, deeds of trust, easements, a plat and anything else they found and faxed or emailed it to me for free. It was a service they offered real estate agents who were trying to get listings, thus the name.

I realize attorneys do the closings in NC, but if I’m not mistaken, title companies are now allowed to perform them as well. A call to one of the larger nation-wide title companies might yield some results as far as getting a list kit for your friend’s target property.


Thanks Craig - Posted by Joe C. (AR)

Posted by Joe C. (AR) on March 27, 2006 at 16:08:18:

The Wittenmyer book is available at Amazon. I ordered one today.

Joe C. (AR)

Re: Doing your ownTitle Search - Posted by DaveD (WI)

Posted by DaveD (WI) on March 27, 2006 at 11:30:30:

Call up your favorite title company and ask for a title “peek”. Known as a “search and hold” around here, the cost will be nominal ($50) if anything. Advise them you might not close all your deals, but will let them handle the title insurance closing aspects of any you do close. Like anything, it comes down to building relationships.

Re: Doing your ownTitle Search - Posted by Craig (IL)

Posted by Craig (IL) on March 27, 2006 at 09:22:14:

Doing uyour own title search is risky since an inexperienced person can easily miss something. But if you want to take the risk, you could reap rewards years down the road by gaining expreince and saving fees on future purchases.

There is a spiral-bound book, “Hidden secretes of a real estate technician” by Bryan Wittenmeyer. It explains the ins and outs of this task, and also dicusses title insurance, drafting deeds, contracts, and other matters. I think you have to contact the author directly (his websit) to get the notebook

steps… - Posted by lukeNC

Posted by lukeNC on March 27, 2006 at 08:45:23:

  1. write a check out to your favorite closing attorney.

Best to rely on an attorney’s opinion, since this will be needed in order to eventually sell this property.

Dont ever cut corners on title searches.

Re: Doing your ownTitle Search - NOT brain surgery - Posted by ski

Posted by ski on March 27, 2006 at 19:20:41:

My title co. charges me $27.50 for a search w/o insurance. They do this 'cause I close about 1 deal a month with them.

Re: steps… - Posted by Doug (NC)

Posted by Doug (NC) on March 27, 2006 at 09:03:31:

I think my friend is looking for some type of preliminary title search to determine if buying a pre-foreclosure property is feasible. I know she will use an attorney for the closing, but how do you find out what liens there are on a property (if liens are too high, there is no point in making the purchase)? A closing attorney around here costs around $500.

How do investors get around paying the $500 on every property they “consider” buying? Is there some reasonable alternative for this?

That’s a good deal - Posted by John Behle

Posted by John Behle on March 27, 2006 at 19:51:15:

That’s a decent price and probably far more valuable than the time it would take to do the work yourself. Most title companies will provide free or cheaply priced services for their good cutomers.

I love having a good relationship with title company. They can do so many things and help to get deals closed. I dislike dealing with a new title company or someone elses. Most of the time I end up doing their work for them or trying to straighten out the mess they create. A good title company can be one of the most valuable resources.

When I first started investing, I had one title company where I bought about a million in property off of one old dusty $100 earnest money check that they never cashed, but just moved from file to file. They also loved my deals. They got a kick of out challenging and interesting deals and were a valuable resource as to legal matters, etc.

After a while “Mark” was so good that another large real estate company hired him away as their corporate counsel. Then the vice president was promoted and he was a true moron. He killed several of my deals and I took my business elsewhere. He destroyed the small title company and of course went on to be the general counsel for the largest title company in the state. I always find the best talent, minds and legal advice at the smaller companies. The larger ones make it up on volume.

I had an interesting meeting with someone at the county recorder’s office one time. He was a researcher for one of the top real estate attorneys in the area. It was nice, he ran through all the title companies and who was good, who was sloppy, etc. He knew, he was the one straightening out the problems they caused. He confirmed my observations that the larger companies make their money by volume, but are sloppy and make mistakes. The smaller ones do the better work.

Re: steps… - Posted by lukeNC

Posted by lukeNC on March 27, 2006 at 18:00:25:

I used to be a title abstractor for local attorneys, so I know how to do a title search.

Showing you all you need to look for is a bit much to post.

If you really dont want to pay an attorney, I say go downtown and pay one of the many abstractors to do a search for you, average price is $50-$75. Or maybe get a nice one to show you how its done.