When you purchase a home in Massachusetts, a title search is performed by the closing attorney’s office. This search involves checking public records for proper transfer of title from one owner to another, the existence of liens, and more. Although issues are not common, they do happen. Here are 5 common property title defects in Massachusetts real estate title searches.
1. Clerical Errors
One of the most common property title defects in Massachusetts is a clerical error. With any type of records, human interaction is required. Thus, those processes are subject to human mistakes. Clerical mistakes certainly take place and create problems for real estate transactions. A document may not have been recorded properly, may be recorded out of order, or may be missing certain pages. Although these are honest mistakes, they can still create problems when it comes time to transfer the ownership.
2. Illegal Deeds
Public records may show that a proper deed exists for each past title transfer of a property. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell that a particular deed may be illegal for one reason or another. A document may be signed by a minor or undocumented immigrant, be signed under duress, etc. The issue may arise many years after a property is sold, jeopardizing the rights of the current owner.
3. Missing Heirs
There are many cases where the owner of a property becomes deceased. In that case, the property will transfer to their heirs, who then may turn around and sell the property. Sometimes, unknown heirs come forward years later, claiming part or whole ownership to a property. This, unfortunately, creates problems for the current owners.
4. Forgeries and Impersonations
Forgeries and impersonations are almost impossible to detect during a title search. Properties can change hands multiple times over the years, each with a deed that includes notarized signatures. We assume those signatures are legitimate, unless told otherwise. It’s certainly possible that someone provided a fake or stolen I.D. when signing, or that some other form of forgery could have taken place.
5. Boundary Disputes/Issues
Boundary disputes are among the common property title defects on Massachusetts. All deeds includes legal descriptions of a property and its boundaries. Unless someone has a detailed survey performed, it may be difficult to match that description to the physical property. Thus, errors in the description can often go unnoticed for many years and multiple property transfers.
Other Common Property Title Defects in Massachusetts
The above are just a few common property title defects in Massachusetts. Title insurance is offered to homeowners to cover many potential scenarios. However, they do not cover every possible one. The risk of encountering an issue is typically higher for a property that is distressed, has gone through foreclosure, or some other unusual scenario. Before purchasing a home, be sure to ask your lender about owner’s title insurance.