Why A Title Search Might Not Come Back Clean

One of the more worrisome things during any property transaction is the possibility that a clear title to the location can't be produced. Under real estate law, the transfer of a property has to occur without any outstanding reasons for it to not happen. It can be helpful to understand why a title search might not come back with a clean bill of health.


One of the most common reasons for a search to be problematic is that there's an outstanding lien on the title. This may just be an error, as it certainly is possible that a creditor failed to take the lien off a location after payment was completed. It may, however, be a sign that a property owner is in tough financial shape and has already put the property up as collateral. If you're committed to going forward with a sale under such circumstances, it's wise to retain the help of a real estate law firm to make sure your rights and financial interests will be protected.


The close cousin of the lien from a private party is the lien due to outstanding taxes. Fortunately, this might present an opportunity to get the property cheaper at a tax sale. Similarly, you may be able to propose paying off the taxes to settle the claim on the property, as the government generally doesn't care how it gets paid. Also, the government is likely to be motivated to get the property sold if it means collecting money. Just make sure you take a fair amount off the sale price to account for paying the taxes.

Boundary Disputes

While a different species of problem, disputes over boundaries on properties do come up during searches. The history of revisions to the property line and data from the location might be poorly documented, for example. Also, changes in the terrain over many years can lead to issues.

Fortunately, this problem has a simple solution. Have a survey conducted before you move forward with the sale.


By far the scariest reason a title might not come back as completely clear is fraud. A seller may be engaged in misrepresentations about the property, or they might flat-out not own what they claim to own. Title scams, especially ones that involve issues with time and money due to supposed processing problems, are common. it's better to walk away from a sale than to chance being defrauded.

To learn more about real estate law, contact a law firm like the Johnson Motinger Greenwood Law Firm.