Common Terms

Chain of Title

The successive ownerships or transfers in the history of the title to a tract of land.


In some areas called “settlement” or “escrow.” Process of completing a real estate transaction during which deeds, mortgages, leases and other required instruments are signed and/or delivered, an accounting between the parties is made, the money is disbursed, the papers are recorded, and all other details such as payment of outstanding liens and transfer of hazard insurance policies are attended to.


A written document that transfers title to property; there are several different types; a grant deed, the most common, is simply used to convey property; a gift deed is used to make a gift of property; a quitclaim deed is used to transfer an interest owned in a property and contains no warranties; a tax deed is used to convey title held by the state, and a deed of reconveyance is used to convey legal title back to the borrower from the trustee.


A right of one person to make limited use of another’s property, for example, the right to cross a property and maintain a road or right-of-way to install and maintain public utility services.


An intrusion on real estate property rights by way of building beyond specified land boundaries such as a structure that crosses into a separate plot of land or hangs over in assigned airspace.


A method of closing a real estate transaction in which all required documents and funds are placed with a third party for processing and disbursement.

Fee Simple Deed

The Absolute ownership of a parcel of land. The highest degree of ownership that a person can have in real estate, which gives the owner unqualified ownership and full power of disposition.

General Lien

A restriction used to satisfy a debt due from the owner of a property that is not confined to the real estate value.


The determination of a court regarding the rights of parties in an action. A judgment of debt on a property owner can create a lien on all of that owner's land within a certain jurisdiction.


A legal claim upon property for the payment of a debt; a money encumbrance; such as, a mortgage lien, a judgment lien, or a mechanic’s lien.

Limited Warranty Deed

A legal document that transfers ownership of real property from one person or organization, known as the grantor, to another, the grantee.

Quitclaim Deed

A legal instrument that is used to transfer interest in real property. The entity transferring its interest is called the grantor, and when the quitclaim deed is properly completed and executed, it transfers any interest the grantor has in the property to a recipient, called the grantee.

Title Insurance

A policy of indemnity issued by a title insurance underwriter or its agent that insures a buyer or lender against monetary loss or damage due to errors in the title as described in the policy and undeterminable facts that affect title such as fraud, forgery, unrecorded documents, unknown heirs, and many other factors.

Title Search

An examination of public records to determine and confirm a property's legal ownership, and find out what claims or liens are on the property.