Does a Real Estate Deed Have to Be Filed and Recorded?

Filing and recording a grant deed protects your rights to your new home.

Filing and recording a grant deed protects your rights to your new home.

You've closed the deal on your new house and part of that action meant meeting with your escrow officer, or your attorney in some states, to sign the deed. Deeds show the ownership of a property. If you keep your deed a secret, the only people aware of your ownership include the property owner, buyer and the professionals involved in your home transaction. There are reasons you should file and record your deed.

Real Estate Deeds

There are several types of deeds; the most common is the real estate deed. This formal document lists the name of the property owner, transfer date and the property's legal address. When you buy a house, you might sign a grant deed. If you have a mortgage loan, in some states you sign a trust deed -- where the lender or title company holds the deed in trust for you until you pay off the loan. A quitclaim deed, sometimes known as the deed of release, also transfers ownership interest in the property of the person signing the deed. The quitclaim deed also transfers ownership. While the other deeds require you to meet with an escrow officer or attorney, the quitclaim deed can be done by anyone. A warranty deed has the same purpose as a quitclaim -- transferring ownership -- only it guarantees no other interest in the property. The quitclaim deed makes no such claim. There could be several other owners holding interest in the property under a quitclaim deed.

Filing the Deed

All real estate deeds must have a notary seal, a stamp made by a licensed notary public confirming identification to prove you're you. Some states require two other people to watch you sign and then also sign the deed as witnesses. After signing, the deed is filed where you live. Filing is the process of taking the deed to the government office. You don't need to file deeds, but without filing, the ownership won't be public. Lenders and title companies file the deed for you.

Recording the Deed

Recording the deed protects ownership -- for you, the title company or your lender. The county or city recorder's office or district registry of deeds records the deed in order of the date and time the documents arrive at the office. If two people file a deed for the same property, the first person filing has the first legal right of ownership.

Follow Up

Failure to file and record the real estate deed puts the ownership at risk. Without the recorder's date and time stamp, another person could claim ownership of the house in an earlier sale. Dishonest sellers or lenders might sign two different deeds to transfer the same property. The public filing and recording establishes the official ownership of the property. The deed protects you as the property's legal owner.

About the Author

*I have written chapters and articles for Oxford and Harvard University Presses, ABC-CLIO, and others. Arcadia Press published two of my local history texts and I have also written for numerous "article sites," including Pagewise in 2002. My "How to become a...real estate agent" is available as an online text from a Canadian publisher. *I taught writing courses at a branch campus of Indiana University. *I held a California real estate license and have remodeled four of my own homes and advised others on financing homes, repairing credit to qualify for loans, and managing construction (including meeting local, state, and federal regulations for restoration and development grants). *I served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer and wrote nearly $75,000 in small education grants (under $1,000). *My travels include frequent road trips in Canada, Mexico, U.S., and Europe. I attended school at Cambridge University and used this as a base to explore the UK and Europe.

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