The process of buying a house is hard enough. The competition between bidders remains fierce after the red-hot market of 2020-2022, so potential buyers have every right to jump for joy when their offer gets accepted by a seller.
That euphoria can quickly turn into a nightmare, though, if a title search surfaces an issue. If there’s an issue with a title, the buyer will not be able to legally and properly claim ownership of the property unless the problem is rectified. Title issues don’t always surface during the title search, either; problems can arise months or years after a sale.
A few title problems, three of which we’ve outlined below, are more common than others.
1. Unresolved liens.
A lien is a cloud over property that takes precedence if it is ever sold. Liens may be placed on a property if the previous owner did not pay contractors or subcontractors who performed work, filed for bankruptcy, was ruled against in a civil court action, or did not pay taxes. Lien holders will often move to seize, or levy, the property in order to satisfy the underlying debt.
2. Undisclosed heirs.
This can become an issue if the previous owner passed away before selling the property. Real estate often gets passed down via trust, last Will and testament, or some other estate planning instrument. If the probate court cannot locate any heirs, buyers might obtain the property only to later discover unknown heirs. Other times, the previous owner’s estate plan might be re-discovered a while after they passed away.
3. Unknown easements.
In the simplest terms, an easement is a section of property that may be used by people who do not own the property. Easements are often secured by utility companies to run underground power lines and other access points for energy. Sometimes, though, neighbors can have a legal right to enjoy a portion of someone else’s property via an easement. For instance, someone who must either travel several miles out of their way or use a section of your property to access their own property might have already established an easement through repeated use approved by the previous owner.
A thorough title search should surface most types of easements. In many cases, continuing to let third parties use your property via easements is not a big deal to your enjoyment of the real estate. However, an easement could prevent you from building an addition on that section of your property, for example, or place some other bothersome restriction.
A related title issue is a boundary dispute with a neighbor. This type of issue doesn’t usually rear its head until you try to alter the disputed section in some way (like building a fence). A thorough survey can surface a boundary dispute before it becomes a real problem.
Let Us Help Property Your Property Interests
The dream of owning a house should be accessible to everyone. However, a transaction as complex as a property sale can present myriad unforeseen issues. If a title search does not surface pertinent ownership issues, the problem can end up being catastrophic for homebuyers. Pence Law Firm aims to protect the property rights of honest people who, through no fault of their own, must prove to a court that they actually own the property into which they have invested thousands of dollars and sweat equity. Contact our Oklahoma firm today to get true advocates on your side; call us at (918) 367-8505 or fill out a form on our website to get started.