Title Proves Home Ownership

Q: I live in Southern California and paid off my home. I received “Substitution of Trustee and full reconveyance” that was recorded in my county in June 2007.

Is there some other document that I should receive indicating Title, Deed or ownership of my property? I received an ad from a private company indicating they would assist for a fee to obtain an official document. Would this be a something like the title of a car?

By the way, I very much enjoy your column in my local paper.

A: When you purchased your home, your seller delivered to you a legal document that may have stated that it was a “warranty deed,” “special warranty deed,” “trustee’s deed,” or even a “quit claim deed.”

Any one of these documents is the one and only document that shows the conveyance of title from your seller to you. That document could be considered the “title” to your home and would be recorded in the appropriate county office in which your home is located. Once recorded, it would become part of the public record. After being recorded, the county office will mail the original document back to you, the homeowner.

That public record gives title companies and others the ability to look at a particular property and determine who has owned the property over the years and who owns the property today.

Unlike when you own a car, the state does not issue a document that would show you as the owner of the property.

Once you receive a deed to the home and it is recorded, you are the official owner of that home. However, if you obtained financing when you bought the home or if you took out a loan that was secured by the home, that lender holds a lien on the title to the home. If you attempted to sell the home, a subsequent buyer would take that title subject to the loan. The sale of the home would not get rid of the lender’s rights against the property.

In some states, lenders take a mortgage on the property. In others, lenders take a deed of trust. The deed of trust effectively is a lien on the property for the loan amount but also puts a hold on what an owner of that property can do to the title of the home.

For most buyers, a mortgage and a deed of trust will work the same way. An owner will buy the home, take out financing, give the lender a mortgage or deed of trust, and pay off the loan over time. When the loan is paid in full, the mortgage is released, or the deed of trust is canceled, and the title is reconveyed to the owner.

If you have received a reconveyance document from your lender, and it has been properly recorded, you need do nothing more. If you have a copy of the deed to your home from when you purchased your home, you’re all set.

For most people, having their original deed from when they purchased their property plus the release of mortgage or reconveyance document for the deed of trust will work in most situations.

If you ever need a copy of the deed to your home, you can always obtain a copy from the office that accepts documents for recording in the local county in which your property is located. You will generally be charged a fee for the copying the document.

In some cases, you can obtain a copy of the document from your county’s web site and pay a nominal fee. In some counties, the county office may charge one fee if you want a copy of the document and a much higher fee if you want that document certified by the county as an accurate copy of the original.

There are some companies that will assist homeowners in obtaining copies of documents for their records. These companies charge a fee for their services. Before you hire them, you should know what it would cost you to get a copy of these documents on your own and then what the service would charge you to determine whether you are better off getting the document yourself or having the service help you out.

Start with the Internet and use a search engine to see if your local office has a web site that allows you to view and print these documents. The best option would be to print them in the comfort of your own home.

Dec. 4, 2007.


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