What Are Property Deeds?

April 28, 2021by Brandon Banks

In the state of Florida, when transferring the ownership of real estate, the seller must sign a deed granting the property to the new owner.

Without a properly written, executed, and recorded property deed the title (ownership rights) might not be properly transferred from seller to buyer.

Moreover, if the deed to a house does not conform to certain rules it could be found to be invalid. If the deed that transferred title to you is found to be invalid your ownership rights could be called into question.

This is why having a competent title company, research the title and conduct the closing, especially when it is a residential real estate closing, is paramount in protecting your ownership rights and ultimately the large investment you’ve made into the property.

What Is A Real
Estate Deed?

As mentioned earlier, a real estate deed is a legal document that transfers ownership of a piece of property from the seller to the buyer. In most cases, it features a detailed description of the property (complete with current property lines), and indicates the seller and the buyer involved in the transaction. Both parties must sign the deed for the document to take effect.

In the majority of real estate transactions, the seller must provide the deed that is signed at closing. In some situations, the buyer’s attorney will prepare the deed, although this is rare. The seller may also choose to hire an attorney or title company to represent them during the closing process. (In this case, the seller’s attorney or title company would prepare the deed.)

Regardless, all deeds executed in Florida must be signed in front of a notary public and two approved witnesses. It is important to note that there are several different types of property deeds (with the general warranty deed being the most prevalent). Using the wrong type of deed could result in problems involving the title, potentially preventing the new owner from securing a mortgage or clearing title altogether.

As such, for a deed to a house to be considered valid, it must meet the following criteria:

  • The document must clearly state it is a deed, using phrases such as “this deed” or “executed as a deed.”
  • The document must designate an interest in real estate to a specific person.
  • The document must sufficiently describe the property that is being transferred to the buyer.
  • The seller must have the legal ability to grant the property to the buyer, who in turn must have the legal ability to receive the property.
  • The document must executed voluntarily and without undue influence.
  • The deed must be delivered to and accepted by the buyer.

If a property deed does not conform to any of the above rules, it could be found to be invalid. If a previous deed is found to be invalid it could break the chain of title. So, for instance if a previous owner of the property was an alcoholic or had some form of dementia and a caretake or a doctor were the grantee on a previous deed and a lawsuit occurred later on after you have purchased the property, that previous deed could be found invalid; causing a problem with the chain of title. Which in turn could call into question the validity of your own deed to the property.

Normally to mitigate these types of issues a title agent will conduct a title search examining the chain of title looking for potential issues. Despite best efforts, some issues can be missed. It is rare. But, it does happen. Having good title insurance will help mitigate those issues.

Why AreReal Estate
Deeds Important?

Real estate deeds serve a range of important purposes. They identify the owner of the property in question, define the boundaries and location of the corresponding land, and help to safeguard the chain of title (otherwise known as the property’s ownership history).

These are all essential aspects of a real estate transaction, with the deed taking center stage. In order to sell real estate, the current owner must have legal documentation showing they own the property with a clear title. By failing to do so, the buyer risks facing claims from another party who believes they have the rights to the property.

In simple terms, real estate deeds are crucial to Florida property transactions because they facilitate the transfer of property. To be truly effective, they must be recorded in the county where the property is located. Recording the deed will put the document in public records, serving as a point of reference for future buyers, lenders, creditors, and the public at large.

Ultimately, property deeds protect the buyer’s interests from potential disputes or claims. They also offer a meaningful historical record that can help present, past, and prospective future property owners conduct genealogical research relating to the property.

How AreProperty Deeds
Different From Titles?

A title is evidence of ownership of the property, granting the owner either partial or full interest in the piece of real estate. It allows the owner to access the land and make potential modifications. In addition, the title gives the owner permission to transfer their interest to others.

A deed, conversely, is a legal document designed to transfer title from one person to another. It must be provided in writing, per the Statute of Frauds—and it is sometimes referred to as the “vehicle of the property interest transfer.”

It’s worth mentioning that transfers can be less than the title itself, pertaining to only a portion of the owner’s current interest in the property. And while all the deeds relating to the property in question must be recorded in the courthouse or the county assessor’s office, neglecting to file them will not affect the transfer of title.

Erroneous filing simply means the deed is not “perfected,” or that there was an issue with the way the paperwork involving the deed was managed.

What AreGeneral
Warranty Deeds?

The general warranty deed is the most common deed involved in the sale of residential real estate. It conveys title to the property, while also providing specific covenants of title to the buyer.

What is a covenant? This term denotes a guarantee that certain facts involving the property are true. The general warranty deed itself is a promise from the seller that the buyer can enforce in court should any of the seller’s claims be untrue.

In summary, the general warranty deed consists of five covenants of title that the United States adopted as law when it gained independence from Britain. (These covenants were originally part of the English common law.)

They include the following:

  • The Covenant of Seisin – This is the seller’s assertion that they are the current owner of the property.
  • The Covenant of the Right to Convey – This is the seller’s claim that they have the right to sell the property, and that no other party has the option or right of first refusal to buy the piece of real estate.
  • The Covenant Against Encumbrances – This is the seller’s assurance that there are no liens or encumbrances against the property, including any restrictions on the use of the property.
  • The Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment – This is the seller’s promise that there is no defect in the property title that will hinder the buyer’s enjoyment of the piece of real estate.
  • The Covenant of General Warranty – This is a warranty that the seller will protect the buyer from damaged resulting from a title defect, and that they will defend the buyer against potential claims to the property.

These are the five covenants that comprise a general warranty deed. It should be stated that in this type of deed, the seller is granting the five title covenants not only on their behalf, but on behalf of all the previous owners of the property.

This means that if another former owner breached one of the above covenants—revealing a title defect—the current seller is responsible for correcting the problem, even if they weren’t directly involved in the breach.

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