Today I have a doctor's appointment at 4 p.m. and I forgot the reason. Maybe it's a physical?

Yesterday was another busy day which became a little less busy around 9 a.m. I learned my court date was pushed to May 11th for some reason. Probably because I caught them off-guard by acquiring a lawyer and the cop who issued the ticket wasn't going to be able to show up yesterday. Cop doesn't show up, judge throws out the ticket, and I'm free and clear. The township of Bloomfield, NJ needs to bring in that money!

The jobs I had were relatively simple, tbh, except for a two-owner which will have me pulling 21 books to see if the recited instruments are relevant to the property in question in addition to rummaging through 231 instruments online to see if they affect the property in question as well.

There was an ugly little note that had me extending a present owner search to a full, strict sixty year search. The chain of title took me all the way back to 1925, the property changed hands more than a few times in the interim, but fortunately each owner was easy to run once I finished the owners from 1925 to 1984.

but what does it all mean?

When people purchase homes, they often acquire title insurance. The title insurance is to protect the owner from unexpected easements, right-of-ways, encumberances like tax sale certificates, and other real estate jiggery pokery which can turn the American dream into the American headache or nightmare. Homeowners receive a deed to their home as proof of ownership, along with a promise of their rights as homeowners along with legal boilerplates. It's the job of a title searcher to chain back the deeds to a certain point, determined by the client requesting the search, so the client feels secure in insuring the property in question or PQ.

Chaining back deeds is easy. Many deeds list the prior deeds by book and page, since deeds are stored in books. Even with the advent of digital storage the concept of books and pages remains. There are municipalities who have done away entirely with books and pages and list their instruments, a.k.a. legal documents, by an instrument number. Often times an instrument number looks like a stardate from Star Trek except there are more numbers. Only thing I know about making up instrument numbers is typically the first four digits represent the current year but everything after that is gobbledygook or volapukaĵo.
Often times a searcher will encounter a deed, typically a sheriff's deed from a foreclosure, which does not recite the prior deed. Fortunately these deeds show the names of the prior owners, or grantors (or defendants in the case of foreclosure), making digging up the prior deed an easy affair.

Keep in mind going forward grantors are the people or entities selling a property. Grantees are the ones purchasing a property. Think employer/employee.

Unless their surname is Smith, Jones, Brown, and all those other peasant names. Worse are people with those surnames but their first name is John, Mary, James, William, and so forth. Compounding the misery in this case, there are people out there who are John Smith but do not have a middle initial.
Because I've wrangled many jobs featuring common names, especially those names over decades, I do hold them in contempt. On the other hand, they're guaranteed near-anonymity by being lost in a crowd. On the gripping hand, the problem doesn't lay in them but the indexing systems used by counties. In my humble opinion a homeowner should be assigned a unique alphanumberic identifier, much like a drivers license or social security number, then everyone can be gay with piss then head home to eat chips and enjoy a lie-down.

Full searches cover 40-60 years depending on the client. Searches can be strict, where every homeowner needs to be run, or non-strict where homeowners are run 30 years back and everything behind them is the chain of title. Running a homeowner means using the county's indexing system to find all the instruments relevant to the owners of a PQ at the time. Deeds, easements, mortgages, assignments of mortgage, lis pendenses, inheritance tax waivers and so forth.
Speaking of inheritance tax waivers, a searcher must determine if there are any surrogate documents available so heirs posing as claimants can be eliminated from the property in question. It's all part of the magic of probate, the official proving of a will, and surrogates are the living who could represent the living. Sometimes they're family, a few times they're friends of the deceased.
Typically one person becomes the executor/executrix who acts in the decedent's name according to their last will and testament to ensure everything is distributed fairly. Back in less-civilized times every member of a decedent's surrogates could be listed as the grantor of a property on a deed. I call this a "clown car" and it only serves to make the search more difficult since there are assholes being mentioned who never had any stake in the house until Great Aunt Bertie died after her pet goat Nellie kicked her square in the noggin.

Old deeds are interesting because they often have racist and/or weird restrictions. The racist restrictions are known as redlining, defined as refusing (a loan or insurance) to someone because they live in an area deemed to be a poor financial risk, and the weird restrictions concern stuff like "No farm animals on the premises" or "Brewing strong liquors is verboten".

Once a job is set up, meaning names and dates are established on a runsheet, then comes the tedious process of running out a job. Checking each instrument, ensuring it's relevant to the PQ. This is facilitated by the recital of prior deeds, the metes and bounds of a property, among other ephemera useful for differentiating one property from another.

Running out owners over the decades shows the story of the house. Who lived there? Were they sitting pretty or in dire financial straits? Deaths, divorces, and other human foibles become evident to the searcher. While it's not like reading William Faulkner, a savvy title searcher does get a fascinating few minutes of these little histories which are largely forgotten.

A deed, or title, can be traded for money or take place interfamily. For example that bastard of a note I completed on Tuesday was interfamily from 1925, then the wife died in 1949, then their son died in May of 1969, followed by the father dying in November of 1969, leaving their daughter as the sole owner who sold the property in 1984. If a deed changes hands interfamily, or for no true consideration, then they have to be run until there's a true consideration. A consideration is legalese for price. Folks who sell their home for $1 could still have a stake in the property. Those who sell their home for some disgusting amount, for example I saw a house that sold for $2.7 million on Long Beach Island, are considered to have divested themselves of all claim on, and responsibility for, the PQ.

Once a job is completed, there's a little paperwork to be done before it's sent back to the title examiner. The title examiner checks the title searcher's work, requests any things that might've been missed (easements and whatnot), then sends it over to the client for final approval.

And now you know what goes on with title searching.

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