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Everything You Need to Know About Real Estate Transfer Deeds

Image portraying real estate transfer deeds

Posted by: Anand Srinivasan, founder of Hubbion
Published: January 29, 2019 

The ownership of every piece of land in the United States is recorded and held at the County Recorder’s office. When ownership changes hands, this also needs to be reflected in the public records. This process of transferring interest over a real estate asset is known as conveyance

A transfer deed is a document that acts as the proof of conveyance. In other words, it’s the transfer of the ownership of a property. It has a property description that adheres to legal norms and identifies the current and subsequent owners. It also acknowledges the transfer between them in a language that legally specifies it as a deed. 

It should be noted that a deed is different from a title. It is the vehicle through which the transfer of ownership takes place and not a legal right to the property, partial or complete.

When Is a New Deed Required?

Aside from selling the property to a new buyer, a transfer deed might be required in a few other scenarios. For instance, transfer deeds are required as proof of transfer if someone is planning to transfer property to a family member or to a business at no cost or if someone is planning to fund a living trust. Changes in the names of the title of the property may also require a transfer deed as documentation.

Transfer deeds are usually carried out between the buyer and the seller with the help of a lawyer. In recent times, it has become common for such transactions to be performed through online service providers like LegalZoom. In either case, if you are the real estate agent for the buyer, it’s a good idea for the buyer to include you in the process as a witness. The witness is an important role should there be a conflict over the transaction in the future.

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Types of Deeds

There are essentially three types of transfer deeds that are based on the particulars of the deed, such as what the grantor can convey and the warranties included in the deed. 

A general warranty deed is one of the most common forms of transfer deeds. It provides the greatest conveyance and protection to the buyer because it explicitly states that the property is free of liens and the seller holds no claims to its ownership. The buyer also reserves the right to sue the seller should this claim turn out to be false. 

A special warranty deed guarantees less than the general warranty deed. In this type of transfer deed, there is no guarantee against title defects or encumbrances that may have been present when the seller received the property nor does it obligate the seller to do anything further once the title is transferred. Special warranty deeds are frequently used by temporary holders of real estate assets such as corporations, trusts, or other fiduciaries who do not use or occupy the land for their own benefit. 

A quitclaim deed is a particular type of special warranty transfer deed that carries no warranties at all. It merely conveys the interest that the grantor had in the property, whatever that may be. Quitclaim deeds are used to transfer rights where there is ambiguity over what those rights are in the first place. This is mostly commonly used to clear up title problems or to transfer property within a family or between spouses (especially after a divorce). 

Joint Tenancy and Tenancy in Common

When more than one person is purchasing a property, it is important to determine how these joint owners will take the title. There are two common types of shared ownership—joint tenants and tenants in common. The type makes no difference in most of the rights and duties of the co-owners, but it does affect how the asset would be treated upon the death of a co-owner. 

In the case of joint tenancy, when one of the co-owners dies, the share of the deceased passes automatically to the surviving joint tenants, regardless of the existence of the deceased owner’s will. In contrast to this, in the case of tenancy in common, the share in title of a dead co-owner is passed on to their heir or the people named in the deceased’s will.

Recording the Deed

The last step in the conveyancing process is recording the deed, mortgage, or any other instrument in the county where the property is located. Even though it is commonly called the county recorder’s office, land registry office, registrar or register of deeds, the name of the county office involved with recording real estate instruments varies from state to state. 

This last step of recording the deed is extremely important because the owner’s interests are not fully protected unless and until the document is recorded. In addition to this, the sequence in which the deeds and other documents are recorded also determines the priority of various claims against the property.


Transfer deeds form the legal backbone to a buyer’s or owner’s right to a property. Poorly made transfer deeds or the absence of one could severely impact the right to property ownership. Even though these documents are generally short, as a real estate agent, it is important for you to understand their value and acknowledge their significance in the legal system.

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