When you buy a home, you usually meet the person living in it. Even if they've already moved out, the fact that they have the keys and let you in means you might never think twice about whether they own it. However, you should understand the situations where someone might not completely own the home you're buying.
A lien on a property means that the owner owes money and isn't allowed to sell the home without clearing the debt. This might be due to back taxes or a contractor who did work on the home and never got paid. Because a lien means the seller can't sell their home, a buyer's biggest concern is often having the sale go through. The seller must present a plan for clearing the lien either before the sale or at closing from the proceeds of the sale.
Because a lien is against a property, a missed lien can cause problems for the buyer. The creditor now has a right to collect against the buyer. The buyer would then need to work with their real estate lawyer to sue the seller for not disclosing the lien.
An easement gives someone else the right to use a part of the property for a certain purpose. Most homes have an easement near the street for a sidewalk, power lines, plumbing, and other essential utilities to run through the neighborhood. Another common type of easement gives a neighbor without street access a right to use a driveway through the other's lot.
An easement is legally binding and usually permanent unless you get the other party to agree to give up their rights. Therefore, you need to check for easements including those that you may not be able to readily see or that aren't currently in use but could be exercised later.
You also need to be aware of the exact boundaries of the property. For example, a fence may actually be over another neighbor's property line, and you may not find out until someone else buys that home and does a survey. You could then be responsible for taking down the fence and may not have as big a yard as you thought you did. Always work with your real estate lawyer to verify the legal boundaries of a property and check it against reality.
To make sure a home you're buying has a clean title or to get help with a title problem, contact a local real estate law firm today.