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The How's and Why's of Transferring a Real Estate Title

By Eleanor Boschert

It's one of the final steps in a real estate closing transaction: the transfer of title. As the formal document proving legal ownership and possession of a property, it will change hands via a written deed officially stating that the title has been transferred from seller to buyer. Once the deed is filed on record with the county recorder's office, the buyer officially becomes the owner of their new home.

Generally, a real estate (or closing) attorney will conduct a "title search" of public records prior to a sale to review the "chain of title" or ownership history of the property and to verify the current status of the title. They will determine the legal description of a property (map, block, and lot number), the name of who legally owns it, and whether there are any issues or defects with it. If there are issues, such as easements (an owner legally allows a non-owner use of a property, liens (owner owes money and the creditor is laying claim to it through the property), or covenants (restrictions on the property) against it, it will not be free and clear for the exchange of ownership. In Florida, a "general warranty deed" will hold a seller liable for any outstanding liens or issues with a property, requiring them to correct the issues before sale or arrange to compensate the buyer before completing the transfer.

There are several ways to transfer titles:

  • General Warranty Deed: Transferring all rights to a property to another person clear of all issues or defects throughout the entire tenure of the property. It is the most common form of title transfer.
  • Special Warranty Deed: Transferring all rights to a property to another person clear of all issues or defects arising only during their ownership tenure
  • Quit Claim Deed: Transferring rights to a property through an individual who doesn't necessarily legally own it, but is responsible for it. This often occurs through inheritance or in a divorce situation with name changes on the title and doesn't guarantee that a title is free and clear of encumbrances.

In a title transfer transaction, your closing attorney will charge you for researching the title, preparing the deed, and filing it with the county. The state of Florida also collects a "document stamp tax." Placed on general warranty and quitclaim deeds, it will cost you a transfer rate of 0.7% or $.70 per $100, based on the value of the property being transferred. You will also incur a fee for the services of a notary public who will legally acknowledge the deed and sign off on the transfer.

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