Doing the deed! (a/k/a different deed formats)

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In real estate, you hear the word ‘deed’ a lot but sometimes it’s not clear what is being referenced. A deed conveys or transfers property from one to another, be it an entity or an individual—that is consistent for all deeds. The key is what this deed actually SAYS. Sometimes the title of the deed is clear (like “Warranty Deed” at the top of the instrument), but that could be meaningless if the internal wording is incorrect or less than an absolute warranty of title. Let’s explain…

The ‘best’ deed is a Warranty Deed. If I transfer a property to you with that, I am warranting that I own it and can freely transfer it to you. I also give you a ‘warranty’ that I will help defend that clear title (thank goodness for Owner’s Title policies!). The ‘worst’ deed is a “Quit-Claim” deed (no it is NOT a quick-claim or quick deed!). The Quitclaim deed transfers ‘whatever I own’ to you. If I am the full owner of the property, great! That means you own whatever I ‘gave’ you. What if I don’t own it? Well, if I EVER take ownership of that property down the road, then that deed more or less finally kicks in (as an example, I can deed you the Golden Gate Bridge, but you didn’t get anything because I don’t currently own that beautiful piece of living history. BUT if I ever do (somehow) own it, guess what? At that point it’s yours!)

Interested in buying a foreclosed property? A Bank takes title to the property through a “Deed Under Power”, meaning they used their power of sale embedded in the Security Deed to ‘take back’ the property when the owner defaults. (A Security Deed transfers an ownership interest to the Bank in order to Secure their interest in the property—an analogy is a car title where you and the Bank own the secured item together). Now that the Bank owns the property, they will sell it to you using a “Limited Warranty Deed” (sometimes called a “Special Warranty Deed”). There is specific language in that deed noting that they warrant and guaranty the title to the property ONLY through their time of ownership ‘forward’ in time (in other words, “we only promise to defend any claims that showed up AFTER we obtained this property).

Next time I will talk about “issues” with deeds. When I am cleaning up titles, I find a lot of unintended consequences (incorrect names, incorrect descriptions, incorrect format, etc.). One thing I will say is that you are risking a lot when you use a deed you found on the internet or some cheap office-supply form. Isn’t the ownership of your home worth the $50-150 an attorney would charge to prepare that instrument? You will hopefully decide YES once you see the next newsletter…!

As a side note, here in the Metro Atlanta, Georgia area, I have received various “official” notices in the mail with a very strong call to action. This call to action virtually screams that I MUST contact them and get a copy of my property deed TODAY (oh, and send them $55-85 for this important service). Here’s the deal—if you have signed any deed of conveyance, the attorney who handled this should have mailed you the original. Can’t find it? No problem! The cost here in Georgia?  Go to your county Clerk of Superior Court (property records division) and get a copy… for FIFTY CENTS. Yep, those ‘official’ notices are a scam—legal, but still an absolute scam. Be safe out there! 

That just answered the question!

I bought my home early this year in Atlanta and got many these Deed Letters. I was not sure what it was about but not too stupid to take it seriously.

Thanks for clearifying it!

Glad to hear it!  Those letters are REALLY well written (e.g. OH MY GOSH, you BETTER send us money NOW or your TITLE can be threatened!!!! ; )  

@Bo Wagner   that is very informative thanks!

Nice post, Bo. 

Given that this is a national forum, do you plan to post about additional deed types and other ways to pass marketable title in the other 49 states and Commonwealths?

Rick, as I'm only licensed in GA and KY (and really only practice here in GA) that would be out of my scope, and would likely run up against 'UPL' for other states (Unauthorized Practice of Law) so I guess I'll keep my postings general or relating to GA.  With that being said, the types of deeds should be quite similar if not identical in most states; just depends on local practices as well.  

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