Part of the process for buying real estate is to research the title of the property. This is important because the title shows the ownership of the property, and you want to be certain the person selling the property truly owns it or has the authority to sell it. The title search can be time consuming, and it is wise to leave that to a professional, such as a skilled real estate attorney.
The person who does your title search will present you with an abstract of title. This document will be important to your decision-making process, so you may find it helpful to understand the kinds of information you may find in it.
Understanding the abstract details
The abstract of title provides a history of the ownership of the property you intend to purchase. It also lists any other documents that relate to the property. These documents describe any procedures that may have affected the ownership or use of the property. If your abstract of title is thorough, you should have no further surprises once you take ownership of the property. However, any of the following on the abstract may indicate the need for additional legal action:
- Easements, such as those allowed to utility companies, may prevent you from using certain portions of your property as you intend.
- Mechanic liens mean a previous owner may have failed to pay a contractor for improvements, and the contractor’s claim on the property may prevent you from purchasing it.
- A survey of your property may show that a structure or fence your neighbor erected is encroaching on your land or that your building crosses your neighbor’s property line.
- You may find yourself liable for unpaid property taxes from a previous owner if authorities placed a lien on the title.
- If the property belongs to a homeowner association, your abstract of title should document any restrictions on the use of the property and identify whether the HOA has a lien for the previous owner’s unpaid dues.
If the abstract of title shows elements that complicate your intended purchase of property, you may wonder how you can resolve this. You certainly do not want to take steps that will compromise the future success of your business or value of your property. You may find the answers you seek by reaching out to a Massachusetts real estate attorney who will know and understand current laws and how they apply to the issues on your title abstract.