How to find the title to a property

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How a qualified solicitor can help you track down your property title

Buying a house requires a lot of legwork and paperwork. Just finding the title of a house or property you are buying will take a lot of research, especially if you do not know what and where to search. However, if you have an experienced and qualified solicitor on board, the process will be much smoother.

Provided that you or your solicitor has performed a thorough research, a title search can unearth a wealth of information that can be of an advantage to you. However, no matter how extensive the information is, you should focus on the three most important factors as to why you made the search in the first place. These factors include the seller’s saleable interest, restrictions or allowances and liens.

  • Saleable interest – With saleable interest, it means that the seller has the legal right to sell the property in question.
  • Restrictions and allowances – This includes the easements, real covenants and other forms of restrictions the property has.
  • Liens – A lien is someone’s legal hold on a piece of property which hinders the property from being sold. Liens can be in the form of mortgages or back taxes. As the buyer, finding out about this piece of information is very critical because overlooking a simple mistake can cost you a lot of money.

Property titles are accessible as public records; thus, it is easy to acquire all the information you need from your local registry office. But don’t be fooled that just because it is easily accessible means it is easy to complete all the necessary inquiries and requirements. Therefore, it is advisable to hire someone, most often a lawyer or a title company, who has the experience in dealing with such complexities.

What to look for in a title?

Aside from the name of the property owners, the title report also carries the exact description and specification of the property you are buying. It also gives you the limitations and allowances in the property such as liens, caveats, covenants, easements and mortgages.

  • Liens – In legal speak, lien is the term used to refer to the hold of a person on the property of another. The person who has a legal claim to that property has the right to sell or take the property as payment for a debt or other financial obligations. If a property has a lien to it, it cannot be brought up for sale.
  • Caveat – This is like a protection placed on a property by a person to serve as a warning to anyone who is interested in or wants to check the Certificate of Title of the property. If the property has a caveat to it, the Registrar of Titles will inform the person who requested a caveat to the property.
  • Covenants – Restrictions placed in a property are called covenants. Examples of covenants in a property are as simple as the prohibition of building a fence more than four feet in height to the more complex such as prohibition of sale to a certain group of people.
  • Easements – An easement gives someone the right to use a specific portion of the property registered under your name to be used for a specific purpose. If you are the seller, be sure to disclose the easements that the property has. If you are the buyer, see to it that you have performed a title check to confirm whether the seller disclosed all the easements in a property.
  • Mortgage – The title should also reveal any mortgage upon the property which has not been discharged or paid. If the records show that there is still some discharged amount on the property, be sure that the seller will pay it off upon settlement.

How much does a title search cost?

Finding the title of the house is your responsibility as a buyer. It is necessary to ensure that the property you are buying is free from any legal restrictions that may cause you headache in the future.

Since the rules and regulations vary between states and territories, there is no standard cost. The cost of a title search will depend where you live, or the solicitor or company you will deal with. More so, the mode of payment might differ – some might charge a per hour basis; while some will give you a fixed rate. A typical title search, though, will cost between $75 and $200.

Buying a house needs a lot of time and effort, especially when searching for the title of the property you are buying. That’s why you need to know your rights and responsibilities as a buyer in order to have a smooth transfer process.


Marc Terrano

A passionate publisher who loves to tell a story. Learning and teaching personal finance is his main lot at finder.com.au. Talk to him to find out more about home loans.

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