How to Search for a Real Estate Property Title in California

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Real estate brokers understand the importance of a home title search, but what is the purpose of home titles and why must they be found? In short, a home title indicates the legal ownership of a home. If you have never purchased a home in California before, you might be surprised to find out how many issues can come to light during the search and once the title has been found.


Title searches entail examining public records and additional documents to make sure that a property is free of liens, claims or other issues that could prevent someone from owning the property legally. Title searches involve examining deeds, wills, divorce decrees, maps, tax records and court judgments.

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The most common reason for doing a title search arises during a real estate transaction, after sellers and buyers sign contracts. If the title is not free and clear, it can impede the sale from going through. Title companies and lawyers normally handle title searches and seek out information from municipal clerks and county offices. Many of the particulars can be found there.


For most property sale transactions, the home title search is handled by or through your lender. You will likely pay a fee for this as part of your home purchase, but you typically won't have to do the search yourself. If you want to do a home title search on your own, though, it is possible. You can start by looking at the county's website.

Property Title Search: California

In most cases, property title information is available to the public for free, but you may have to pay a small fee to get copies from the respective county or town office. To do a property title search in California, you can go to the county website that the property is located in and search to see where you can enter the address.


There are 58 different counties in California, and they all have their own systems that can locate this information. Another option is to go to the relevant county clerk's office for the property. In some cases, you may have to go there in person, but call first to inquire about that office's process.

Furthermore, it is a good idea to call the office first, in case they do not have the title information available. Another option for finding the title on your own is to contact the county assessor's office. For example, if you visit the Alameda County Assessor's Office website and click on Property Ownership Info, it says that ownership information is free if you go to their office and visit their public records section.


Property Titles vs. Deeds

Property titles and deeds are not the same thing, though sometimes they are used interchangeably. According to the Michigan state government's Consumer Counselor, a title is the ownership of rights for a piece of property. Titles include all of the previous ownership transfers, and may also include any liens as mentioned above. Deeds are the legal documents that transfer titles from one owner to another. So in other words, deeds are physical representations that prove one's ownership, or title, to the property.


Prospective property owners also purchase title insurance, which protect the property from any past title problems that may show up after a home is purchased or refinanced. These policies do not provide for any new ownership problems that occur after the property is purchased, though. Lenders generally require home buyers to purchase title insurance for everyone's protection.

Consider also:How to Find Free Property Tax Records