Property Titles vs. Property Deeds: What’s the Difference?

The vocabulary of real estate can be complex. A person could spend years carefully studying definitions without fully understanding the entire scope of the real estate industry. While brushing up on terminology never hurts, there are really only a few key phrases you need to know while buying or selling a home. Understanding the difference between property deeds and property titles, for instance, can help immensely when you decide to put your house on the market.

Your title is the legal ownership of your home. Title gives you control over the property and allows you to reside there. A homeowner might think that the “title” to her house is like the certificate of title for her car – a government issued document that gives the name of the owner. While you might expect the term “title” to refer to a specific piece of paper or document, it is actually a collection of rights you assume when purchasing a home. Some of the rights include:

  • Right of possession, meaning that the house is yours
  • Right of control, allowing you to use the property as you’d like
  • Right of exclusion, granting you the power to welcome or forbid guests from entering
  • Right of enjoyment, giving you the freedom to sip tea on your porch at midnight or play soccer in the backyard
  • Right of disposition, granting you the ability to sell the home

There’s a giant asterisk on the right of disposition – you must first clear the title before you can transfer possession to a new buyer. That means you’ll need to pay off your mortgage, clear up any liens, and be free of bankruptcy when it comes time to sell. Neither the buyer of your house or their lender will want to take on any old IOUs that come with the house.

The deed, on the other hand, is a tangible document. It is the legal document that conveys or transfers the title (or the intangible rights listed above) from the seller to the buyer upon purchase. A property deed typically describes the property and identifies the buyer and seller. The seller must sign the deed and deliver it to the buyer to make the sale final. The buyer takes the physical document to the county courthouse and files it with the Recorder of Deeds. The filing of the deed at the courthouse proves to the world that the buyer has the title rights to the house.

Depending on your situation, you may run into terms like general warranty deed, special warranty deed, or quitclaim deed. Your realtor, lender and attorney can offer further guidance on these phrases should they apply. Most importantly, it helps to understand that the deed is the physical document that proves ownership of a house, while the title simply refers to the collection of rights you’re entitled to once you possess the deed.

If you have any additional questions regarding title vs. deeds, or if you need assistance with document preparation services, give us a call at (501) 734-2233 or send us an email: Our team at Attorney’s Title Group has many years of experience in the real estate area and we’re here to help you!