Property Deed: What Is It?

If you’ve been considering buying a house, or looking into real estate, you’ve probably come across the idea of a “property deed.” A deed is separate from, but related to a title. Where a title is used to signify ownership, a deed is the instrument by which that ownership is passed from one person to another.

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Elements of a Deed

So, what makes a deed a deed?

It must be in writing.  

In the olden days, people could transfer property on no more than a handshake or a ritual. However, now deeds to transfer properties must be in writing.

It must be from a valid owner to a valid receiver. 

This may come as something of a no-brainer, but in order to  deed a property, you must also own the title for it, and be legally able to transfer it. The purchaser must also be legally able to own it. Both parties must also be clearly identifiable in the document.

The property must be identified. 

Usually, this means an address, although surveyor’s maps, and information about easements and other details are critical.

The property deed must contain specific language. 

This language is known as language of conveyance. The specifics of this language will vary from state to state or county to county. Because of this, it is important to consult with an estate agent or other company to ensure that the deed is properly executed.

Signed, sealed, delivered. 

(Or 2 out of 3 at least.) To be considered valid, the property deed must be signed by the grantor (the person who is transferring the property) and delivered to the grantee (the person receiving the property). The grantee must then also accept the deed.

Types of Property Deed

There are three main types of deed. (As a side note: there are also  a handful of other types of deed primarily used by professionals within specific circumstances, such as estate law or foreclosure). These three types are the general warranty deed, the special warranty deed, and the quitclaim deed.

General Warranty Deed

A general warranty deed features a number of promises that the grantor makes the grantee. These include the lack of any encumbrances, liens, or other claims on the property. It basically involves a promise that if there is any defect found in the title, the grantor can be held responsible.

Special Warranty Deed

A special warranty deed differs from a general warranty deed in its time span. Its assurances only go back as far as the grantor’s ownership of the property. This means that if a grantor is signing a special warranty deed, they are assuring that they have not created a defect of title during their ownership.

Quitclaim Deed

This type of deed offers the least protection, and basically just says that the grantor is giving up their own interest in the property, but cannot assure the same for anyone else.

Understanding the kind of deed you have or are able to grant can go a long way in helping you understand your rights and responsibilities towards your new property.

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