We talk a lot about real property titles on this blog, but without deeds, there would be no titles.
Both deeds and title required to transfer property
While a title establishes a legal interest in the property and provides the legal right to transfer that ownership interest, a deed is proof of ownership. Both are required in order to sell property. A deed includes a detailed description of the property along with information about former owners (called grantors) and the new owner (called grantee). The buyer and seller sign a deed in order to transfer ownership rights, and the deed becomes public record.
But one deed does not fit all transactions. Some transactions are for commercial property, some for residential. Others involve no exchange of money. Here’s a guide to the four most common types of deeds.
Four most common types of deeds
- General warranty deed — As the name suggests, general warranty deeds are the most common type of deed used in real estate transactions. A warranty deed guarantees that the seller has the right to sell the property, that the property is free of any debts or liens and that the buyer can legally purchase and enjoy the property. With a warranty deed, the sellers warrant to defend the title against claims and to compensate the buyer for any unsettled debts or problems that may arise. Warranty deeds involve a thorough title search so title insurance can be easily purchased.
- Special warranty deed — Similarly, special warranty deeds guarantee the seller has the right to sell the property and that it is free of any debts or liens, except that the seller in this case guarantees only against problems that may have occurred while they owned the property. This deed makes it possible to cure title defects, but it doesn’t protect the buyer from still-hidden title defects. Special warranty deeds are most commonly used in commercial real estate transactions.
- Grant deeds — Grant deeds work much like general warranty deeds with one important exception. Like general warranties, grant deeds guarantee that the seller has the right to sell the property and that it’s free of liens and debt. Unlike the special and warranty deeds, however, it doesn’t guarantee against title defects that may surface later.
- Quitclaim deeds — Quitclaim deeds allow an owner to transfer their ownership interest to someone else, typically without any monetary exchange. Quitclaim deeds transfer properties ‘as is,’ with no title search, no guarantees and no warranties. These deeds are most commonly used among family members and close acquaintances, oftentimes for gifting property or for divorcing couples who want to transfer ownership to one spouse.
Ask a Realtor which deed is right for you
The type of deed or conveyance for your transaction may be pre-determined by the wording in the purchase agreement. If not, consult with your Realtor and your attorney for which is best for you and then be sure to protect yourself with title insurance.