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Real Estate Title Search & Examination in Ontario

Real Estate Title Search & Examination in Ontario

Real Estate Law

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A thorough title search is crucial when buying or selling a property, which assists in a legally sound transfer of real estate. This article will explore the title search and examination, its importance, the procedure involved, and its role in mitigating transaction risks.

What is a Real Estate Title Search?

Title Search

A title search aims to establish a property’s legal ownership and uncover claims, liens, or encumbrances that may affect the title. It involves investigating public records to trace the property’s ownership history and identify potential legal issues. A real estate title search also reveals liens or restrictions on the property that could affect its use or value. By identifying and addressing potential issues, a title search protects the interests of all parties involved in the transaction and facilitates a smooth and legally secure transfer of property ownership.

How Long Does Title Search Take?

The duration of a title search can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the complexity of the property’s history, the efficiency of the local land records office, and the specifics of the region where the property is located.

For straightforward cases, where the property has a clear history and is located in an area with well-organized and digitized records, the title search might be completed in a few days. However, a title search can take two weeks or more for properties with a complicated history—such as those that have changed hands many times, have been part of estate settlements, or are located in rural areas with less digitized record-keeping. The real estate lawyer can update you on the timeline as the closing progresses.

How Do I Do a Title Search of My House?

Hiring a real estate lawyer is a way to conduct a title search of your property. A real estate lawyer has access to the necessary databases and local government resources where property records are kept. They will use your property’s legal description, which is mentioned on your deed, to search through deeds, records, property and name indexes, and lien searches to compile a detailed history of ownership, along with any encumbrances such as liens, easements, or covenants that could affect your ownership.

Can I Get Title Insurance After Closing?

Title Insurance

It is possible to obtain title insurance after closing on a property. Purchasing it before or at closing is more common to mitigate risks that could affect ownership or financial standing from the outset. If title insurance is purchased post-closing, it may protect against unforeseen issues not identified during the initial title search, such as undisclosed liens, forgeries, fraud, or errors in public records. However, it is important to note that any issues that arise between the closing and the policy acquisition may not be covered. Homeowners interested in acquiring title insurance after closing should consult with a real estate lawyer to understand the coverage options, limitations, and the process for securing a policy post-purchase.

Do You Need a Title Search to Refinance?

Yes, when refinancing your mortgage, a title search is typically required as part of the process. Lenders require this step to ensure the property’s title is clear of any issues that could affect their investment, such as undisclosed liens, easements, or disputes over property boundaries. This search provides a comprehensive view of the property’s legal status. It confirms the homeowner’s rightful ownership, enabling the lender to secure its interest in the property with a new mortgage. The title search during refinancing is similar to the one performed during the initial purchase, aiming to protect the lender’s and homeowner’s interests against potential title defects or claims.

The Importance of Title Search and Examination

Title Search Importance

A property’s title is a legal document that outlines ownership rights. A thorough review of the title is vital as it uncovers potential issues affecting ownership, marketability, and value to ensure that the aspects of ownership are legally sound and free from future problems. Here’s why this step is pivotal:

Identifying Encumbrances: A title search can uncover encumbrances, such as liens, mortgages, easements, or claims, that could affect the property’s clear title.

Ensuring Marketability: A clean title is a hallmark of a marketable property. Real estate lawyers can review the title and advise if it is free from defects that might hinder its sale or financing.

Mitigating Risks: Pinpointing potential title issues allows for their resolution before they escalate, saving time, money, and potential legal battles.

Document Examination: Real estate lawyers can review property, land, and historical records to trace ownership history and uncover irregularities.

Title Clearing: If issues arise, real estate lawyers can work to clear encumbrances, whether negotiating with creditors or rectifying errors.

Off-Title Searches: Off-Title searches go beyond property titles, conducting thorough off-title searches to ensure no hidden liabilities, unpaid taxes, or outstanding debts exist.

Informed Decision-Making: Armed with our comprehensive title review, you can make informed decisions about property acquisition, ensuring that you confidently enter transactions.

What Can a Title Search Find?

Here are some of the key aspects that a title search can uncover:

Ownership History: A title search reveals the chain of ownership for the property, showing all previous and current owners. This information confirms the current seller’s legal right to sell the property.

Liens and Encumbrances: A title search can identify liens, mortgages, charges, and other financial encumbrances against the property. These encumbrances can impact the property’s clear title and marketability.

Easements and Restrictions: Easements, which grant specific rights to others over the property (e.g., utility companies), and property use restrictions can affect the property’s potential uses and development plans.

Unreleased Mortgages: Occasionally, a mortgage might not be officially released even after it’s been paid off. A title search can uncover such discrepancies.

Missing Heirs or Beneficiaries: In some cases, a property might have multiple owners, and locating all relevant parties is crucial to ensure a valid sale.

Probate Proceedings: If the property was part of a deceased person’s estate, the title search can reveal if it went through probate and if the necessary legal steps were taken.

Errors in Documentation: Title searches can uncover clerical errors or mistakes in previous documents that could affect the property’s title.

Lawyer’s Role in Title Search and Examination in Ontario

The role of a lawyer during the title search and examination process is crucial to maintaining the honesty and security of real estate transactions. Lawyers are responsible for conducting a detailed investigation of the property’s title to ensure no legal obstructions to its transfer. They examine public records, such as deeds and liens, to verify ownership and identify outstanding issues that could affect the buyer’s rights. Their expertise is critical in resolving discrepancies or legal issues during the title examination, protecting clients from potential legal disputes and financial losses.


A real estate title search and examination are crucial for a legal and smooth transfer of property ownership. They reveal hidden issues and legal entanglements, providing peace of mind for buyers and sellers.

If you need more information on real estate transactions, contact us today and learn how a real estate lawyer can help you.

The information provided above is of a general nature and should not be considered legal advice. Every transaction or circumstance is unique, and obtaining specific legal advice is necessary to address your particular requirements. Therefore, if you have any legal questions, it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer.

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