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Buying a home or a piece of property is not only the largest purchase most people ever make in terms of dollars, it is likely the most complex as well. One of the most frustrating things that can happen during a real estate transaction is finding out there is a problem with the title to the property, which can delay the closing of the sale. Sometimes, these problems are solved easily, but some issues can take a long time.
Some of the issues that come up include the following:
There is a lien on the property.
When you sign an agreement with a vendor to do a major project on your house, such as adding a room or putting on a new roof, that agreement usually says that if you don't pay on time, the company can put a lien on your house. That means if you sell the house before you pay off the debt, the company will get paid out of the proceeds from the sale. However, sometimes when people pay off these types of debts, the vendor neglects to remove the lien and it shows up years later when trying to sell the house. More often than not, this is a simple matter of contacting the vendor and asking them to remove the lien. But what if the company has gone out of business? Those are the kinds of problems that can take a title agent weeks or months to untangle and resolve correctly so that the sale can go through.
You’re divorced and your ex-spouse is still listed as a co-owner.
Even when a divorce settlement stipulates who gets the house they co-owned as a married couple, that doesn't automatically make its way into all the paperwork with your county’s property appraiser. So, as far as they are concerned, you are both still owners of the house, which will be discovered with a basic title search. This is easily resolved in most cases by filing a quitclaim deed, which both former spouses sign, stating that one spouse now has complete ownership of the property. And if you parted amicably, this should be a fairly easy process. However, if the ex-spouse refuses to cooperate, that can cause delays. While there are legal remedies available in such cases, it can be complicated and time consuming.
There’s a hidden boundary dispute involved.
Sometimes, surveys of adjacent properties are in conflict with each other, which could lead a neighbor to claim that part of the property you own is actually theirs. Typically, a dispute like this is with another homeowner, but it could also involve a homeowners association or municipal government. Handled correctly, it can often be resolved pretty easily, especially if it doesn't involve a major overlap. It can get messy, though, if there is a substantial piece of the property that's in dispute or if a structure has been built on the area in question.