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How Long Does a Title Search Take? Find Mortgages, Deeds and Liens

The UpEquity Team Feb 25, 2022
Woman in front of a computer, doing yoga in her home. Contemplates the questions she has about title searches.

When it comes to buying, selling or even refinancing a home, the title search is one of the most important steps in the process. A title search ensures that the seller actually owns the property and that there are no liens or other claims on it. It also acts as an assurance to buyers that they will get full ownership of the property and will be able to secure title insurance.

In general, a title search can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks, all depending on the complexity of the search, the property’s previous ownership, and the number of documents, if any, that need to be reviewed.


In this blog post, we will cover the following:


  • What is a title search?
  • Who does the title search?
  • How much does a title search cost?
  • What does the title policy cover?


What is a title search?


A title search is a process of thoroughly reviewing all the documents related to the ownership of a property to make sure there are no issues, or clouds on title as they are also called. A cloud on title is a claim made against the ownership of a property that, if left unaddressed, will make it difficult or impossible to sell or even refinance a property.

These issues can be many things: deeds, mortgages, outstanding liens, or unpaid property taxes. These may include judgments against a property owner or even personal income state taxes that the seller has failed to pay. As a buyer, a title search is therefore paramount to ensure that you don’t purchase a property and end up on the hook for the previous owner’s debts and responsibilities.


Who does the title search?

The title search is typically done by the title insurance company on behalf of the buyer. Once a property is in escrow, the real estate agent, attorney or escrow company will request a title company to conduct a title search. The company will then search its own database as well as public records to check for any and all claims on the property’s title or chain of ownership. They will also check to see what liens or encumbrances have been filed against the property and then publish their findings in a report that is provided to all parties involved in the transaction.

While a title search, in most cases, takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, the more issues that show up on title, the longer the search will usually take.

Fortunately, though, once a title search is complete, either the title company will be willing to provide title insurance, or at the very least, their report will let the buyer and seller know what exactly needs to be resolved before a title policy can be issued.

A title search may also be done on behalf of a lender when the property owner wishes to refinance their current home. In the same way that a buyer wants to protect their interests, a lender will want the same assurances that the property the buyer hopes to refinance is free of any issues that may get in the way of them getting their money back.


How much does a title search cost?

A title search costs anywhere between $50 and $500 depending on the title company being used. The cost will also be higher if you need an expedited search or if there are problems with the title. Depending on the state you’re in, these can be paid by the buyer, the seller or split between both. However, the majority of the time, it is the seller who pays for the title search as well as the subsequent title policy.


What does the title policy cover?

A title policy is a form of insurance that protects buyers and lenders from any financial losses that may result from title defects being found during the title search. A title policy will also cover any potential future claims against the property, such as erroneously filed documents, fraud, forgery attempts, outstanding lawsuits or liens not brought on by the owner.

Coverage will also depend on the type of title insurance policy received. An owner’s policy, which insures just the property owner, will typically include the most basic title coverage. Meanwhile, a lender’s policy, designed to protect the mortgage company’s financial interest, will usually provide much more extensive coverage.


There are certain items, however, that title policies will not cover, no matter their type. For example, title insurance policies usually won’t cover liens or encumbrances that the title company is unaware of. So, any claims that were not filed with the county recorder’s office against a property or couldn’t be found in an ordinary title search will most likely not be covered by your title insurance policy.


Additionally, a title policy usually won’t cover anything agreed to verbally, such as an agreement made with a neighbor about sharing part of a property, or agreements made with third parties, such as a friend or relative, regarding the ownership of your home.


how much is a title search? Could vary between $75 - $200. What does it cover? Any underlying flaws in the property. How long does it take? Hours to weeks, new homes are typically faster.


Bottom Line: A Title Search Saves You Money

Ultimately, buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions you can make, and a title search plays a key role in protecting your investment. For a relatively small cost, a title search will reveal any outstanding debts or issues that must be paid prior to you gaining ownership, thereby saving you thousands.


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