home seller will typically provide title insurance, which involves finding out who really owns the property and if anyone has any liens, or claims, against it.
A property records search is multifaceted. First, the title company searches the history of the ownership of the property, called the "chain of title," using records at the County Clerk's or Recorder's office.
Next, a search is done to determine if any real estate taxes are owed by the owner of the property. The tax search should indicate any paid or unpaid special assessments against the land.
Sometimes, the title insurance company will send an inspector to verify the lot size, check for improvements, and see who is living there. In the judgment and name search, the title company will determine if there are judgments against the seller that are to be paid out of the proceeds of the sale. The name search makes sure that a judgment against a person named "Smith" isn't also a person who might be named Schmidt, Schmid, or Smythe.
Only after all of the searches have been completed will the title company issue a commitment to insure the property.
Ilyce Glink is the bestselling author of 100 Questions Every First Time Home Buyer Should Ask, and is the Managing Editor of Right at Home Daily.