Q: Hey Ilyce is there a way for me to do a title search of a home myself or do I need an attorney?

A: It’s not that you can’t do a casual search of the title to a property. You certainly can go to the local recorder of deeds and start to trace back the ownership by looking up owners of record.

The problem is that if you aren’t trained to do this kind of work, you could easily miss liens or problems that affect a piece of property.

In some states, there are attorneys who specialize in title work and you generally would hire them to do this work for you. In other states, there are title insurance companies that can deliver to you a report on a specific property. Some of these reports do not rise to the level of a title insurance commitment or policy but might give you some of the information you are looking for.

Your decision to work with an attorney or title insurance company will also depend on the information you are looking for. In some states, property records and tax records are readily available online. If you are looking to find out if a deed was recorded conveying title to a particular piece of property, you might be able to find that information rather easily online. Knowing whether the document you find was actually a proper document without defects will be another story, but you should at least be able to find the document.

If you are looking to see if taxes are paid on a piece of land, those records are also online in many counties.

A title search on a piece of property can take up various elements. When you order a title insurance commitment or opinion, depending on where you live, the company or attorney delivering the search will look at the documents recorded against the property, review tax records that affect the property and generally also search whether the owner of the property has any liens filed against him that might not show up against the property.

The package as a whole will be put together in a report given to the person who has ordered it. If the report is a title insurance commitment, the commitment has certain benefits that can be relied upon by the person that places the order. So, you need to know what you are looking for to determine whether it is worth the expense of working with a title insurance company or attorney.

I have put up a lot of information about title and title searches at ThinkGlink.com/title that you may find helpful.

May 6, 2009