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The process of examining official county records to determine whether an owner's rights in real property are good.
A title search is conducted to discover whether there are any defects in the ownership of a particular tract of land. An Abstract of Title, prepared by the examiner subsequent to such an investigation, is a condensed history of the title to the land.
n. the examination of county records for the property's title history by a title company, an abstractor, attorney, or escrow officer to determine the "chain of title," and the current status of title, including owner, legal description, easements, property taxes due, encumbrances (mortgages or deeds of trust), long term leases, judgments or other liens. When a title search is completed, a "preliminary report" on title will be issued by the searcher. On the date of recording of any new transfer or encumbrance (such as a new secured loan), an up-dated "final title report" will be issued which will make it possible to obtain title insurance guaranteeing against any problems with the title. Sometimes the title search will turn up some "cloud on the title" which reveals something is wrong such as a break in the chain of title, inaccurate property description in a previous deed, or some old secured loan which has not been released. Such clouds can be a reason to cancel a contract for purchase of the real property. (See: title, chain of title, encumbrance, lien, escrow, title insurance)