A title officer investigates titles to real estate and land prior to its purchase or sale to determine if there are any irregularities that may affect the transaction or the use of the property. She may specialize in commercial, industrial or residential titles or be proficient in all three. Her job is normally a staff position with a real estate firm or title insurance company.
Titles to land and real estate are certificates that prove ownership. The documents are normally maintained by owners as well as regulating agencies. They contain all of the vital statistics associated with the property and owner including outstanding taxes, liens, easements and zoning restrictions. Any of these factors may delay or prohibit the purchase or sale of property or determine its eligibility for title insurance, which protects the buyer against claims made subsequent to purchase.
If a title officer finds problems with a title, she normally contacts the seller first to assess the validity of the issues. In the case of liens or unpaid taxes, she and the seller normally attempt to resolve these issues to allow the sale to proceed. If the buyer feels the purchase is worthwhile, he or she may agree to personally resolve these concerns to facilitate the transaction.
Zoning and easement matters are commonly handled by a local or regional commission. The title officer commonly must plead her case to these governing boards if she wishes these restrictions to be changed or eliminated. If her requests are denied, she may act as an intermediary for the buyer and seller to reach an amicable agreement.
In addition to studying these title discrepancies, a title officer may have to rely on information found in the region’s land maps and past mortgages to address her concerns. This happens most often when the property and title in question have not been transferred or examined for an extended period of time. She commonly conducts a physical inspection of the property if available documents do not provide sufficient information.
Title officers may work alone or rely on the support of entry-level employees to assist them. These employees are typically title searchers or title abstractors. A title searcher often assists in tracking down documents for the title officer. If information needs to be extracted from trust deeds or mortgages, a title abstractor’s assistance is frequently required.
A high school diploma or equivalent is normally required to be hired for this position. Background in underwriting or as a title searcher or title abstractor is generally preferred to be hired as a title officer. Some employers also require applicants to be licensed notaries to qualify for the job.