Buying a home in California or elsewhere in the country involves some level of stress, and this is understandable. Other than the very personal factors a home purchase entails, it is likely the single most expensive asset in the family portfolio. Concerns over the economics and timing of the transaction can cause sleepless nights, but once those issues are resolved, most home buyers don’t worry about the actual legal transfer of ownership that is necessary to conclude the transaction. However, problems with the title to the property are not all that unusual.

Chain of title is an important concept in real estate transactions. Buyers retain title companies to research the title, or ownership, of the property from the present backward in order to prepare a report summarizing all historical transfers and encumbrances on the property. Title companies may provide title insurance to the buyer to certify the title is free from defects. However, various problems may arise down the road despite what the title report indicated.

Typically, chain of title is researched through the county recorder’s office, which although comprise official records, does not verify the veracity or accuracy of what is recorded. As long as the proper procedure for recording is followed, essentially, anyone can record any type of document. Good faith errors can be made, fraudulent deeds can be recorded, unknown liens, encumbrances or easements may exist, or missing or unknown heirs may surface. Any of these issues can be problematic and expensive to correct or may create doubt as to true legal ownership of the property.

Home ownership is quite simply the American dream, and anything that threatens that ideal can be devastating to the individuals involved. An experienced real estate lawyer could investigate any potential issues of defects or clouds on title and recommend a course of action designed to achieve the best result possible under the specific circumstances.