Let’s Talk Titles!

What's the difference between a title and a deed
A deed from the 1900s.

So you’re buying or selling a piece of property and it’s time to choose a closing attorney. The closing attorney helps ensure a smooth transaction by researching the title and preparing the deed.

But wait, what’s the difference between a title and a deed? Aren’t they the same thing? And why research? How long does this take? What does it cost? And can anything go wrong?

I’ve called in Lexi Scott, Account Executive at Gateway Title to help answer these questions. But before we delve into the ins and outs of deed prep and title research with Lexi, let’s quickly look at the difference between a title and a deed.

A title is the “bundle of rights” or “sticks” that comes with owning real estate. It may seem odd, but we use the “bundle” metaphor because these property rights are not all in full effect all of the time for every piece of property. Sticks are removed from the bundle when there is an encumbrance on the property, such as a lien or restriction, or when the property owner gives up subsurface (minerals, oil) or air rights.

A deed, quite simply, is the written proclamation of your rights to a property. I’ll talk more about deed types and the rights they describe in future posts.

Now let’s talk to Lexi about the importance of researching a title and what goes into preparing a deed.

Lexi Scott, Gateway Title

Lexi, what can title research uncover? How long does it take?

A title search is performed to identify the property, establish ownership, and determine any title issues or outstanding liens.  Property records are gathered from the registry of deeds and then thoroughly analyzed by our title examiner. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks, depending on the turnover time at the registry. A title search is a vital part of the buying process. A clouded title could present serious issues for the buyer in the future if not uncovered & resolved.

What is a cloud on a title? How can it be resolved?

A cloud (a.k.a. a title issue) is an obstacle that may impact the sale or insurability of title on a property. Some very common issues include: undischarged prior liens or mortgages, ownership irregularities, or faulty foreclosure proceedings. If a property has a title issue, be aware that it may impact the closing date. Some issues extend closings weeks or months if the matter is complicated. If the seller has title insurance, it can certainly expedite the curative process.

The steps to resolution vary depending on the matter at hand. When Market Street discovers a title issue, it is immediately communicated in writing. Steps to “cure” the issue are clearly outlined in an accompanying letter. One the issue is resolved, title is considered clear.

What does all of this cost?

The cost varies depending on the nature of the transaction. Our free mobile app Liberty TitleAgent One [iOS/Android] provides a prompt, easy way to estimate total title closing costs, title insurance, transfer tax, etc. Simply fill in the basic transaction information and it instantly generates a quote.

Are there ever times issues can’t be resolved?

Sometimes title issues require a lengthy and/or expensive legal process to clear. This can be very time consuming, especially when the seller does not have title insurance. In some situations, “exceptions” to the title policy can be made and the transaction can be cleared to close.

When does a deed get prepared? What goes into that?

Once the property description (also referred to as the Exhibit A) is verified, the deed is prepared. The deed identifies the seller’s claim to the subject property and conveys ownership to the buyer.  This document is signed by the seller at closing and is recorded at the registry of deeds. The original copy of the deed is returned to the buyer after recording. It is very important for all parties to thoroughly review the legal description to confirm & accept the property being conveyed.


Connecting you with a title company that suits your needs is a courtesy provided by me, your real estate agent. Do you have a question about titles or other real estate related matters? Let’s talk!