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The Basics of a Real Estate Deed

Deeds are the primary way we record and publish interests in land. Property interests are conveyed by deed and are specific as to date, parties, and land described. A deed is full of arcane legal jargon including words like seisin, indenture, warrant, etc. There are 4 major parts to a deed:

  • the first paragraph identifying the parties,
  • the property description,
  • the type of conveyance
  • the signature.

The first paragraph of a deed usually sets forth the date and the parties involved. The date is often detailed as “On this the DATE day of MONTH,, in the year of our Lord, two thousand and sixteen.” This is a very silly way to write a date, but that’s often how it’s done. The first paragraph also identifies the parties, basically the giver and the receiver. The giver of the property interest is called the “Grantor” and the “party of the first part.” The receiver is called the “Grantee” and the “party of the second part.” The grantors and grantees may be a person or persons or legal entities like corporations, LLCs, etc. The grantor gives the property interest to the grantee.

The property description details exactly what is being conveyed from the grantor the grantee. This is often called the “legal description.” The legal description will often describe the metes and bounds of a piece of property, reference a recorded plat of survey. It will include the County and State in which the property lies. The combination of the grantor’s name and the legal description help create a “chain of title” for the property. The legal description will often be identical to or a part of the legal description in the prior deed. The “prior deed” is the deed in which the grantor (giver) in the present deed was the grantee (receiver) previously.

The type of conveyance embodied in the deed is usually found in the bulky, boring, wordy part of the deed. Most often the deed will be either a warranty deed or quitclaim deed. Warranty deeds make a promise from grantor to grantee that grantor is conveying good “warranted” title to the property. The grantor is making a statement, “I promise that I own the property conveyed.” A quitclaim deed, conversely, makes no such promise from grantor to grantee. In a quitclaim deed, the grantor is saying “Whatever I may have, I give to you.”

The final major component of a deed is the signature provision. Deeds require formal execution to be valid. The grantor’s signature must be both witnessed and notarized by two separate individuals. The grantee (receiver) does not sign the warranty deed or quitclaim, and the grantee’s acceptance of the conveyance is legally presumed.

After execution, deeds are recorded in the Clerk’s Office of the Superior Court of the County in which the property lies.