Real Estate Deeds

Usually deceptively short, a deed is an unassuming piece of paper that has a big legal impact. A deed documents the transfer of ownership of real estate, and no real property transaction is finished until the deed is delivered to the buyer. A finished deed includes the names of the buyer and seller and the property’s legal description. The deed is signed by the person transferring the property, and may make that person responsible to the buyer for other claims against or conditions on the property. A knowledgeable real estate attorney can review the deed to ensure that it is accurate and properly executed.

Deed Requirements

A deed for property must always be in writing, and it must follow state laws for property transactions. Different states may require different deed language or forms or even paper sizes, so it’s important to make sure the rules are followed. While not strictly required, it is a good idea to record a deed to make the ownership change a public record.

Types of Deeds

There are many varieties of deeds. Two of the most common are quitclaim and warranty deeds. A quitclaim deed lets the transferor give away whatever rights he or she has to the property, but does not guarantee the extent of the interest transferred. Quitclaims are common in divorces when one spouse grants his or her rights in real estate from the marriage over to the other spouse.

A warranty deed transfers ownership and explicitly promises the buyer that the seller has good title to the property. A warranty deed offers the greatest protection for buyers since a seller must warrant good title to the property, with no liens and encumbrances not disclosed in the deed. The seller also agrees to defend against any defects found in the deed. A special warranty deed is similar to a general warranty deed, but contains only the covenant and guarantee against claims that may arise only during the time the seller was the legal owner of the property.

When buying or selling real estate, the choice of deed defines exactly what the buyer is getting for his or her money or the seller is agreeing to give. Each type of deed includes different rights, guarantees, and legal protections. Contact a real estate attorney to determine which type of deed is most appropriate for your situation.

Recording the Deed

The new deed should be recorded in the appropriate office, usually the land records office in the county where the property is located. This office may be called:

  • The recorder’s office,
  • The land registry office,
  • The register of deeds, or
  • Another name.

The broker or closer may handle recording, but parties to the transaction should make sure that this important step takes place, regardless of who handles it. The purpose of recording the deed is to give notice to the world that the buyer now has an ownership interest in the property. Recording also creates a chronological chain of title so the history of ownership can be researched.


The contact, form, and type of deed are critical. An experienced real estate lawyer can analyze the circumstances surrounding your transaction, determine your needs, and review the content of the deed to ensure that the transfer is valid and appropriate.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein in intended for informational purposes only and should not be construes as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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