A title searcher combs through public records to learn as much as possible about a property title. While individuals can perform title searchers on their own, most prefer to consult professionals, because the process can be lengthy and arduous, and title searchers are skilled at uncovering information which may be challenging to find. People typically hire a title searcher during escrow as part of their investigation of a potential property purchase, and title searches may also be required to refinance a property, take out a construction loan, or purchase title insurance.
When a title searcher is hired, he or she can run either a full or limited search, depending on the needs of the client. In either case, the goal of the search is to uncover information which could become an obstacle to transfer of the property, or could become a problem for the property owner. For example, a title search may reveal that a parcel is technically landlocked, with no easements from neighbors to reach the nearest road.
During a title search, the title searcher confirms that the stated owner of the property really is the owner, and that there are no liens on the property, such as a mortgage or judgment against the property owner. Title searchers also look for people with a legal interest in a property, such as an absent co-owner. They also confirm the details of the property, making sure that descriptions of the property and its boundaries are accurate.
Title searchers also look at restrictions which may be in place, such as easements, forfeited mineral rights, and other issues. This is designed to help people avoid unpleasant surprises. If, for example, someone buys a piece of property with timber rights which have been sold to a lumber company, the lumber company has the right to access the property and remove the timber. Title searchers are also used to check assessment rates, which can vary depending on the location of the property. For example, someone may be surprised to learn that in addition to a standard property tax rate of one percent, they are also obliged to pay an additional municipal tax of half a percent.
A title searcher needs excellent research skills, and good relationships with people who hold information about property titles. This includes regional land record offices, title companies, and banks. Most title searchers are skilled with computers, but also capable of poring through older records stored in ledgers, and they must have sharp eyes for problems. If a title searcher fails to identify an issue with a property, he or she could be held liable.