Before you commit to purchasing a property, you have to know who really owns it, how much the current owners owe on it, to whom they owe the money, how much they owe (if anything) in back taxes, and whether the property has any encumbrances (liens, judgments, or zoning restrictions) on it. In short, you need to know what you're getting yourself into before you get yourself into it.
Fortunately, most of the critical documentation about a property is accessible to the general public and the title company you use:
1 Title: The title shows the names of the property owners and lien holders and any legal judgments on the property. I once purchased a property from a mother and daughter, only to discover later that the daughter I bought the property from wasn't the daughter who owned it. The right daughter eventually took possession of the property, and I was left with some nasty, time-consuming legal battles. By checking the title, you can avoid similar mistakes.
1 Title history: A title company can provide you with a title history that shows the change of ownership over the years. In some cases, this history reveals gaps in the transfer of the property from one homeowner to the next. A gap in the history may be a warning that someone else can lay claim to the property later and take you to court.
1 Property history: Your town or city keeps a history of every property, which includes all building permits issued on the property. If the property has an additional structure that was built without a permit, it may not have been built to code. Any information you can gather about the history of the property can assist you later in evaluating its market value.
SftNG/ Never purchase a property without fully researching its title and any other public documents recorded on that property. In Chapter 8, I guide you through the process of researching a property and assembling a detailed dossier, which is essential for making sound investment decisions.
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