A deed is the legal instrument through which real property is conveyed from its owner to another person. A deed will normally include a legal description of the property to be conveyed, the name of the person to whom the property is being transferred (transferor), and the name of the person who is transferring the property (transferee), with the transferee executing (signing) the deed in front of a notary public. Different types of deed offer different levels of assurance to buyers about what they are purchasing from the seller, and what recourse the may have in the event that they later learn of a problem, such as a question of the seller's ownership rights, or undisclosed liens or easements.
A warranty deed generally provides the buyer with four warranties in relation to the real property it conveys:
Right to Convey: The transferor (seller) has the right to convey the property to the transferee (buyer);
Defense Against Claims: The transferor will defend the title against claims made by other persons;
Full Ownership: An affirmation by the transferor that he is "seized in fee" in the real estate, meaning that he owns all rights to the real estate; and
No Undisclosed Encumbrances: The transferor warrants that there are no encumbrances against the real estate that are not disclosed on the deed.
Additional warranties that may apply, depending on the state law and the terms of the deed, are a covenant of quiet enjoyment (the transferee will have unimpaired, unrestricted use and enjoyment of the property) and a covenant of further assurances (the transferor will take all reasonable actions necessary to perfect the transferee's title if it is found to be defective).
A typical special warranty deed, also known as a limited warranty deed, will typically provide only two warranties:
Personal Actions Affecting Title: The transferor has not personally done anything that would affect the title being conveyed to the transferee;
Defense Against Claims: The transferor will defend the title against claims made by other persons only in relation to the prior actions of the transferor;
A person who purchases real estate based on a special warranty deed must exercise great care to investigate other potential claims against the land. When acquiring land based on a special warranty deed it is wise to obtain a full title history, have an attorney review the transaction and proposed purchase contract, and to purchase title insurance.
A quitclaim deed promises only that the transferee is receiving the transferor's interest in the property. It does not indicate the nature or extent of the tranferor's interest in the real property, or for that matter if the transferor has any interest in the property at all. The transferee of a quitclaim deed, the person to whom the property is conveyed, receives only the seller's interest -- which may be nothing. A quit claim deed provides no warranties about the transferor's interest in the property or in relation to the property. Quitclaim deeds are not backed by title insurance.
Quit claim deeds may be useful to convey property between spouses following a divorce, to resolve a boundary dispute between neighbors, or in a conveyance between family members where one family member is willing to give another certain property rights but without wanting to be responsible for any future problems that might arise in relation to the title or property.
A deed of trust, also known as a trust deed or land contract, is significantly different from the deeds previously described, in that it is a form of real estate financing. The buyer under a deed of trust gains the right to possess and use the real estate, but is not vested with full title until the debt has been paid off.