Understanding Real Estate Titles in North Carolina

Understanding Real Estate Titles in North Carolina

Entering the realm of real estate in North Carolina can feel like stepping into a labyrinth of terms and concepts. One concept that emerges in all property transactions is “title.” When someone buys or sells a property, the title must be transferred from the seller to the buyer. This process can be complicated, and understanding the concept of title is a crucial step toward a seamless and secure property transaction. 

What is a Title?

In the real estate context, title refers to the legal ownership of a property. When you own a piece of property, you are said to “hold the title” to that property, and you have the right to use, occupy, and sell that property. Real estate titles can be held by individuals, groups of people (i.e., couples), or even corporations, organizations, and trusts. 

Unlike with vehicles, a real estate title is not a physical document; instead, the term is used to describe the concept of the ownership of a piece of property, while the physical document is called the deed. The concept of title, however, is more nuanced than a mere certificate of ownership; it’s a critical element that can impact the smooth transfer of property and your ownership experience.

During a real estate transaction, a real estate attorney will pull the property deed, among other documents, to conduct a title search to make sure that the title is “clear.” Having a clear title is paramount in a real estate transaction; it assures the buyer that the property is being sold by the rightful owner and that there are no hidden surprises lurking in the background. During the title search, the real estate attorney checks that there are no liens (legal claims to a piece of property used as collateral for a debt), unpaid taxes on the property, or other encumbrances that would prevent the seller from being able to legally transfer the title of the property to the buyer. 

Once the title is clear, the transfer of ownership can take place. During the sale, the grantor (person selling or transferring the property) will sign the deed over to the grantee (the person taking possession of the property). The deed is then filed with the county Register of Deeds office, finalizing the transfer of the title of the property. 

Types of Title in North Carolina

North Carolina recognizes four types of real estate ownership: sole ownership, tenants by the entirety, joint tenants, and tenants in common. Each type of ownership has its own set of rules and requirements:

  • Sole ownership: an individual owns the property in their name alone. This type of ownership is common for single people or married couples who want to keep their assets separate. 
  • Tenants by the entirety: a type of ownership that is only available to married couples. This type of ownership provides additional protection to the property in the event of a divorce or bankruptcy. 
  • Joint tenants: two or more people own the property together, and if one person passes away, the other owners automatically inherit their share. 
  • Tenants in common: two or more people own the property together, but each person’s share can be passed on to their heirs when they pass away. It is important to understand the different types of ownership before purchasing or owning real estate.

Contact Starling Law Firm

Navigating the intricacies of title in North Carolina real estate requires attention to detail and a comprehensive understanding of state laws. To ensure a smooth transfer of title, it is important to work with a qualified real estate attorney who can provide crucial guidance on the intricacies of deeds, help resolve title issues, and facilitate the use of protective measures such as title insurance. The seasoned real estate team at Starling Law Firm have years of experience facilitating real estate transactions and can ensure that you experience a smooth transfer of title. Contact our office to make an appointment today and put our guidance on your side.

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