Legal – Convey Title

The conveyancing process in the United States varies from state to state depending on local legal requirements and historical practice. In rare situations, the parties will engage in a formal “closing.” In a formal closing three attorneys will be involved in the process: one each to represent the buyer, seller, and mortgage holder; frequently all three will sit around a table with the buyer and seller and literally “pass papers” to effect the transaction.

Much more commonly, the transaction is closed by use of an escrow. Practice vary from state to state as to who conducts the title search to make sure the seller has or can convey clear title, including what liens must be paid, and as to who acts as the escrow holder. In many states attorneys still act as the escrow agent and title inspector. In many others those functions are conducted by licensed escrow agents who often are affiliated with or even owned by a title insurance company. Some use a mix, such as having an attorney conduct the escrow while the title investigation is handled by the title insurance company or its agent.

In order to protect themselves from defects in the title, buyers will frequently purchase title insurance at this time for themselves. They will almost always be required to purchase title insurance for their lender as a condition of the loan.

In most states, a prospective buyer’s offer to purchase is made in the form of a written contract and bound with a deposit on the purchase price. The offer will set out conditions (such as appraisal, title clearance, inspection, occupancy, and financing) under which the buyer may withdraw the offer without forfeiting the deposit. Once the conditions have been met (or waived), the buyer has “equitable title” and conveyancing proceeds or may be compelled by court order. There may be other last-minute conditions to closing, such as “broom clean” premises, evictions, and repairs.

Typical papers at a conveyancing include: deed(s), certified checks, promissory note, mortgage, certificate of liens, pro rata property taxes, title insurance binder, and fire insurance binder. There may also be side agreements (e.g., holdover tenants, delivery contracts, payment holdback for unacceptable repairs), seller’s right of first refusal for resale, declaration of trust, or other entity formation or consolidation (incorporation, limited partnership investors, etc.). Where “time is of the essence,” there have been cases where the entire deposit is forfeited (as liquidated damages) if the conveyancing is delayed beyond the time limits of the buyer’s contingencies, even if the purchase is completed.

Words used to indicate conveyance, or words of conveyance include grant, devise, give, and sell.