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A reconveyance is a legal document that removes a deed of trust from a property's title. It serves a similar purpose to a satisfaction or release of mortgage. Generally, a property should have a reconveyance on its title for every loan that gets paid off. If it doesn't, it might mean that there's still a loan outstanding against it or that someone made a paperwork error.
When you take out a loan that is secured by real property, the lender usually requests a lien against the property. That lien makes it possible for the lender to take your property through the foreclosure process if you don't pay your debts. When you pay the loan off, though, your lender's right to your property also goes away. A reconveyance is the legal document by which your lender gives you back the rights to your property's title that it had taken as security for your loan.
Public Records Search
Reconveyances are recorded on public record, just like deeds of trusts. If you go to your county's office that accepts and archives recorded documents, you should be able to look up the documents that are recorded against the property. This will include deeds of trust and should also include reconveyances that remove those deeds of trust. Generally, the reconveyance document will state which deed of trust it's removing and will be dated after the original trust deed. The search procedures vary from county to county, but most places offer either computer terminals or microfiche readers that you can use to research the documents onsite. Your county's website might be a good place to start to search online or to find out which office to go to and what that office's hours of operation are.
Title Insurer Searches
In many cases, the search for a reconveyance gets performed by a title insurance agency. Title companies search for reconveyances as a part of preparing to insure a policy on a property's title for you as a buyer or for a lender. For a title insurance agency, the process is usually relatively streamlined. Some have their own plants of title documents, saving them from having to go to county offices for research. In addition, the title company employs people that are skilled in researching property records and in matching up loans and reconveyances. (ref 5)
When Reconveyances Go Missing
There are two reasons that a loan might not have a reconveyance. The first is that the loan hasn't been paid off and the lender still has a legitimate claim to the property. The second is that someone made a mistake and either didn't record the reconveyance or the document got lost after recordation. In this instance, the problem can be solved by contacting the lender to have it fix the paperwork, or may also be able to be fixed by having another third party record a new document in lieu of the reconveyance. (ref 6) If you end up in a situation like this, though, it can be wise to get the counsel of a title expert like a qualified title insurer or real estate attorney.
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