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Having clear title is crucial to any real estate transaction. Yet, as the buyer, it can be hard to grasp what exactly title is and how it affects the sale. With that in mind, I brought in the experts to help clear things up. I spoke to Nate Baker, founder & CEO of Qualia, a real estate tech company, to talk about the importance of choosing the right title agent and how this move can make or break your transaction.

Here’s what he had to say:

Tara Mastroeni: Can you briefly explain what title is?

Nate Baker: “Title” refers to the legal right for someone to own and use a property. It also refers to the legal documents that show a property’s history of ownership and generally define the property’s boundary lines, as well as how it’s permitted to be used.

Because ownership of a piece of property isn’t easily tracked simply by looking at who lives there (i.e. renters), title helps to make it clear who owns a specific piece of land. These property ownership records are filed with local government offices so that it is clear who is the rightful owner each time the property is bought and sold.

Having title that’s free of any issues, where you can trace back all previous ownership records is called having “clean title.” It’s a requirement for most sales because it ensures that the home you’re buying will actually be yours.

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Mastroeni: What role does a title agent play in the transaction?

Baker: The title agent plays one of the most important roles in helping facilitate the closing from start to finish. Title agents not only work to make sure the seller has proper ownership of the property they’re selling (clean title, as noted earlier!), but they also help the buyer get title insurance to protect them in the event that the title of their home is called into question after the purchase is completed.

Additionally, title agents work with the lenders, real estate agents, buyers, sellers, and all the other transaction participants to make sure the necessary documents get filled out, signed, and filed correctly. In many states, title agents are also directly responsible for ensuring all of the money — which can often represent someone’s life savings — is transferred correctly.

Mastroeni: Why is it so important to choose a title…