When property is bought or sold, there are several steps involved to make the transaction legally binding, and each step is repeated for the more than 5.5 million sales of existing homes that take place each year. Recording the transaction at the county deed office is among the final steps following mortgage approval, title search, and closing. It is from that recording that the grantor-grantee index is created.
The grantor-grantee index is a publicly-accessible file in the county deed office that allows anyone to look up a property transaction either by the name of the seller (grantor) or buyer (grantee) and provides identifying information about the parcel or property, which may be looked up in other records. The index should allow an individual to follow the chronological line of possession all the way back to the original land grant. Infotracer.com can provide information about property ownership for both buyers and sellers as well as ways to contact a potential property owner.
Other searchable real estate records include easements, court orders, mortgages, and deeds. All are affected by the requirements of each state’s laws. Some county recorder offices include indices to tracts of land separately. Some large cities divide the grantor-grantee index by geographic area to streamline the process and minimize potential errors.
The grantor-grantee index itself is not a legally-binding record; title research required during the purchase and sale process provides the security of clear ownership. Most states in the U.S. use the common law system for recording land or property transactions while ten use the Torrens system.
The common law system of transferring title to property is centuries old and requires researching previous deed holders to establish a clean title for the purchaser. The Torrens system originated in Australia in the 1800s and is a simplified process that is based on certification of land titles.
Minnesota, Massachusetts, Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, Hawaii, New York, Georgia, North Carolina, and Washington are the states that use the Torrens process while others retain the common law system. Both rely on a county register of deeds to oversee and produce records for public use.
Most buyers and sellers use third-party specialists to research deeds and titles as well as to perform other duties involved in a real estate transaction, but it is still important to understand what the general steps of the process involve: