Chain of Title
In real estate, the chain of title is the sequence of owners of a property. It is often found through title searches, and serves the timeline of ownership.
Ideally, there should be no gap in the chain of title, from the time the property was first owned by the government to present day. In most cases, there is no issue with the chain of title, and properties can be bought or sold, free and clear.
However, there are times when the chain of title has been broken and/or contested. In these cases, potential buyers will need to work with their real estate agent, as well as an attorney, to figure out what the problems are and how they can be resolved.
Otherwise, the buyer may be taking on hidden liabilities that could cost them more money or, in some cases, the property itself.
A gap in the chain of title could mean a myriad of things. There may have been a lien on the home, and a buyer may have to take on that additional debt. Or, they may have been an issue like a lost will. If that will is found, the beneficiary may have a legal claim to the home, and the current owner may have to leave or buy out that beneficiary.
An experienced real estate agent will usually present the chain of title to a potential buyer so they know they will not face a surprise debt or claim to ownership after they have bought the property.