The saga of the Title

OK, so I’ve related the story of finding the property up to the point where we made an offer.

The seller accepted the offer within a day or two and then the next phase began…trying to get it done.

I will not purchase a property without a clear title and title insurance. In the few times I’ve purchased property in my life, this has never been an issue, it’s been mainly a formality. Not this time.

The first problem revolved around the fact that the property we bought was actually two separate parcels. The second parcel was a rectangle of about 2 acres that was completely enclosed within the larger parcel. Basically, the people who owned the big piece at one point gave the smaller piece to one of their children to put a trailer on and live on.

The people who owned the big parcel had passed away without a will. Somehow the property passed to a descendent without any record of the ownership being passed and that descendant subsequently passed (after burning her house down semi-intentionally (she meant to start the fire on the front porch but didn’t intend to burn the house down) and going to jail for arson as a result). The seller was a second generation descendent of the listed owners and the executor of the estate of the last person who lived there. In summary, ownership was a bit murky…additionally, there were several other descendants (and their descendants) who had a potential ownership interest as well.

As for the smaller parcel, it had apparently been sold or gifted to another extended family member at some point, but there had also had a judgement against it for taxes, had been seized by the county, the county had tried to auction it off, but no one bought it, then the delinquent owner paid the taxes and got ownership of the property back. Wow.

So, the seller and the title company had to track down every possible descendent of the owners of the big parcel and get them to sign quitclaim deeds relinquishing any ownership interest in the property. They also had to ensure that the same was done for the smaller property, because ownership there was a little vague as well, they also had to ensure that the county signed off on vacating their acquisition of the property and that all the taxes had been paid. There was also some other document that needed to be signed by any people with potential ownership interest that were senior citizens to certify that they were clear on what the implications of signing the quitclaim deeds were and that they weren’t being taken advantage of.

Needless to say, this took quite a long time.

Honestly, had the property not been so perfectly suited for our needs, we’d have dropped out as soon as it became obvious that closing was going to go past the expiration of our initial contract, but the bottom line is that the property fit our needs perfectly. I hated to pass it up and not find anything else suitable, so we stayed in there…for a while.

The problem is that we really wanted to have a property secured by summer so we could start getting it squared away during the late summer and fall, and this was taking way too long. Our contract expired, was extended, expired again and was extended again…all with seemingly little being accomplished.

All this time we were waiting and there was no guarantee that everything was going to get done. If one person with an ownership interest made unreasonable demands (say, insisting that they be paid far in excess of what their interest is worth) to sign the quitclaim deed, the deal could fall through and we’d end up with nothing.

The thing is, I was worried about inflationary pressures that were building and didn’t want to keep waiting forever, not getting the land in the end and wind up having to pay much more for a different, less suitable property later on. We were wasting time waiting for a property that may never become available.

So, after three months or so, after the most recent extension expired, we dropped the contract and started looking again.

We spent the next couple of months repeating the process we’d started on before. I even took a trip out to look at another property that looked promising, but it wasn’t laid out well. The property lines on three sides were on ridgelines and the only really useable land was a narrow strip in the valley down the middle.

After months of looking and researching and finding nothing suitable, we got a call from our realtor. The seller of the property we’d made an offer on had retained the title lawyer after we’d dropped the contract and had continued working on the issues. He said they’d assured him that they’d gotten all the issues resolved and that they were still willing to sell at the original offer price.

So, we reinstated the offer and signed a new contract. This time, it went (relatively) smoothly and within a reasonable time we were in the final stages of finalizing everything. We ended up signing the final paperwork some 7 months after making the original offer.

It was a long, frustrating, exhausting process, but all’s well that ends well and we now own the perfect property with a clear title and title insurance intact.

By the way, in the process the two parcels were combined back into one so we only have one title to worry about.

You may have noticed when I posted the map image from my phone, there is a “notch” in the property lines at the southwest corner. That was another distant relative who had bought or been gifted an acre of the original property to put a trailer on. The trailer is still there, but we can’t tell if anyone is living there or not and the listed owner has passed. We’re watching for that little chunk to come up for sale and if it does and the price is reasonable, we’ll try to buy it too which will even out our rectangle and make the property right about 20 acres total.

Of course, the title issues will probably be just as bad with that one as with the rest, so the price will really have to be reasonable to make it worth the effort. Time will tell.

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