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A deed is the document that transfers ownership of real estate. It contains the names of the old and new owners and a legal description of the property, and it is signed by the person transferring the property. You can't transfer real estate without having something in writing, which is almost always a deed.
Here is a brief rundown of the most common types of deeds:
Quitclaim Deed -
A quitclaim deed transfers whatever ownership interest a person has in a property. It makes no guarantees about the extent of the person's interest. Quitclaim deeds are commonly used by divorcing couples: one spouse signs all his or her rights in the couple's real estate over to the other. This can be especially useful if it isn't clear how much of an interest, if any, one spouse has in property that's held in the other's name. (However, a quitclaim deed doesn't relieve the individual transferring ownership from the mortgage, if there is one.)
Quitclaim deeds are also frequently used when there is a "cloud" on the title -- that is, when a search reveals that a previous owner or some other individual, like the heir of a previous owner, may have some claim to the property. The individual can sign a quitclaim deed to transfer any remaining interest.
Grant Deed -
A grant deed transfers ownership and implies certain promises -- that the title hasn't already been transferred to someone else or been encumbered, except as set out in the deed.
Warranty Deed -
A warranty deed transfers ownership and explicitly promises the buyer that the transferor has good title to the property, meaning it is free of liens or claims of ownership. The transferor guarantees that he or she will compensate the buyer if that turns out to be wrong. The warranty deed may make other promises as well, to address particular problems with the transaction.
Experienced real estate attorneys usually have contacts with good inspectors, mortgage loan brokers, and others who can make your buying process easier. They also know what's considered appropriate behavior and practice in your geographical area.
If legal issues arise that your real estate agent can't answer, you will need the help of an attorney. Although good agents know a lot about the negotiating and contracting part of the process, they can't make judgments on legal questions.
For example, what if your prospective new home has an illegal in-law unit with an existing tenant whom you want to evict in order to rent the place to a friend? Only a lawyer can tell you with any certainty whether your plans are feasible. Or if you're drafting any unusual language for the purchase contract, or you are concerned about some language in your mortgage, you may want to have an attorney look over the documents.
It's no secret that real estate agents earn high commissions. Although the commission is usually paid by the seller, the cost may be indirectly passed on to you. You may find yourself asking -- do I need a real estate agent or an attorney to help me buy a home?
Every state has its own set of real estate laws. For the most part, a real estate agent's help is not legally required, though agents can help you with tasks that border on legal ones, such as preparing a home purchase contract. In some states, however, only a lawyer is allowed to prepare the home purchase documents, perform a title search, and close the deal.
Whether you are buying or selling a home or contemplating a real estate transaction, it's important to know your rights and have them explained to you by an experienced real estate lawyer.
Real estate law encompasses a broad range of issues in relation to property law that you may have never thought about before, such as easement disputes, foreclosures, injuries, property taxes, neighbor relations, property deeds, real estate warranties, different types of mortgages, insurance, and issues related to buying and selling real estate.
An experienced real estate attorney would be able to answer any question you may have and help you with any issue that may arise.