How Is a Title Search Conducted?

magnifying-glass-145942_1280When it comes to real estate, it’s important to ensure a clear, or “marketable,” title on a property. A clear title is one without defects, or in which problems with ownership claims are discovered and rectified prior to closing on the home. A title examiner, or abstractor, conducts an investigation into a property’s chain of title, to determine if any issues are obstructing the way of declaring the transfer of ownership free and clear.

Common Title Defects

A vast array of problems may affect title on a property. Some of the most common include:

  • Forgery
  • Clerical errors
  • Unreleased deeds of trust
  • Judgments
  • Liens
  • Improperly probated wills
  • Fraud
  • Incorrect legal descriptions

The Process of Title Search

A title search is conducted for the purpose of ensuring a homeowner has an unencumbered right to sell their real estate, and takes place early on in the real estate transaction. Once a contract is ratified and received by a title company or closing agency, the title investigation is initiated.

Searching a title for defects begins with thorough research into the past 60 years of history on a property, and ends when the title abstractor/examiner delivers the title report to the closing agent. (If a title is not deemed clear upon completion of a title search, the title agency works to resolve any identified defects.)

In general, the title search process takes about two to four business days to complete, and progresses as follows:

  1. Searching Public Records Database – The title examiner conducting the investigation typically begins by examining the chain of title and deed transfers through public records.
  2. Searching Indexes – In certain cities and counties, the examiner must physically visit the courthouse to search through indexes that are not of public record.
  3. Searching Chancery Court – Occasionally, and if applicable, an examiner further investigates for title defects through the chancery court system, to identify any issues that may be stalled by circuit court judgments against the property’s ownership. Such cases may include transfer of title to heirs through wills/trusts and land disputes, among others.
  4. Summary of Title – Once the title search is complete, the examiner sends a Summary of Title to the closing agent.


Have questions on title search or other closing processes? Contact the Linear Title & Escrow Team today!