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I've noticed that in preparation for closing on a house, a title search is done. What is the name of the document that is produced when the title search is complete? And does that document need to be signed by an attorney? Is a notarized signature required? Is it customary?

  • Where? There are hundreds of jurisdictions to choose from. – Greendrake Nov 8 '19 at 0:42
  • @Greendrake - Oh. It varies county by county? State by state? Country by country? In the UK, for example, is it also called "title search"? // I made some progress on my own. I think the resulting document is called "title abstract." – aparente001 Nov 8 '19 at 1:10
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I've noticed that in preparation for closing on a house, a title search is done. What is the name of the document that is produced when the title search is complete?

There are several kinds of products of a title search that could be produced.

The smallest and cheapest, but not usually sufficient for a closing on real estate, is an O&E for "ownership and encumbrance report" which lists the current owner of record and current debts that the property is subject to based upon a superficial, non-guaranteed search.

Another product is an abstract of title, which is a list of all recorded documents related to the title of the property, sometimes discarding documents that are "wild deeds" or are barred by adverse possession doctrines (a sort of statute of limitations that gives someone with a long chain of uninterrupted title priority over someone who has older documents that arguably given them an interest in the property).

A third product is a title commitment. This document states that the title insurance company is insuring and guaranteeing that a certain person will own the property free and clear subject to only specified encumbrances and easements of record, if certain steps are taken (i.e. if the required documents are paid at closing and the identified debts are paid in the amounts listed). Often there are lots of exceptions for easements, HOA organization documents, special taxing districts, mineral rights, water rights, etc.

In the Western U.S., normally a title commitment is the main document used at closing. In the Eastern U.S., a title abstract followed by an insured opinion letter regarding title from an attorney is more common.

And does that document need to be signed by an attorney?

In the Eastern U.S., for example, in New York State, this is restricted to attorneys. In many Western U.S. states one does not have to be an attorney to do an abstract or a title commitment or to issue title insurance, although title insurance companies generally have an attorney on staff even though most routine cases are done by title officers and paralegals who are not lawyers.

Is a notarized signature required? Is it customary?

A notarized signature is neither required nor customary unless offered as evidence in opposition to a motion for summary judgment in a court case.

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  • Thanks. Let's say it's a paralegal doing the title search. Does the paralegal have to sign the finished product or some related document? Does an attorney have to sign -- or is it customary for the attorney to sign? – aparente001 Nov 11 '19 at 3:39
  • @aparente001 There is extreme regional variation, mostly east to west but with some exceptions. Title commitments are usually signed by a non-lawyer title officer who is a de facto paralegal where this is not considered practice of law (e.g. Colorado). An attorney signs title commitments and title abstracts in places like New York State. – ohwilleke Nov 13 '19 at 19:35

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