Real Estate - Back to Basics: Deeds

"How do I change the name on the deed of my house?" and "How do I take someone’s name off the deed?” These are two questions I hear a lot. What they really mean to ask is, "how do I transfer my land to someone else?" A deed is a written document that transfers title of real estate from one person (or legal entity) to another. In order to transfer the property to someone else, a new written deed needs to be prepared.  

Deeds have several requirements that must be met to successfully transfer title. Every deed needs to have the following: Grantor, Grantee, Conveyancing language, Description of the property, Attestation, and Acceptance.   

Grantor is the current property owner who is transferring the property. The Grantee is the person or entity receiving the property from the grantor.  Conveyancing language refers to language that indicates it is the grantors intent to transfer title. Generally, this will be something as simple as including the words "Grantor grants to Grantee" in the deed.  

The description of the property needs to be sufficient to identify the property so there is no confusion over what property is being conveyed. Usually this will be in the form of a metes and bounds description prepared by a surveyor.  With subdivisions, the description will give a lot number and reference the recorded plans.  

Acknowledgment refers to the signature of the grantor in front of a notary or attorney. This demonstrates that the grantor is freely transferring the property is requirement for recording the deed.  

Lastly, a deed must be accepted by the grantee. You may be thinking acceptance can be assumed. However, the burdens of owning real estate cannot be forced upon someone. There are certain pieces of real estate that no one wants to own. For example, someone may end up finding out that they own land that is full of hazardous contamination. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just give this mess to any unsuspecting person? Acceptance, generally occurs when the grantee, or grantees agent, takes the deed and records it at the Registry of Deeds.  

Every deed needs to be recorded at the county registry of deeds. Recording provides the world with notice that you now own the property. Notice matters because of the Maine Recording Act. Recording acts protect purchasers of real estate when, for example, a Grantor happens to convey land to someone else. If you fail to record the deed to your newly purchased land. The seller could theoretically sell the land to someone else. The second buyer then records and would have priority over you because they did not have notice that you owned the property.  

To be able to record the deed, it must be accompanied by a transfer tax form and payment of transfer tax. Transfer tax rate in Maine is “$2.20 per $500 or fractional part of $500 of the value of the property being transferred.”  Further, transfer tax is imposed 50/50 on both the grantor and grantee. For example, a piece of land is sold for $10,000. The grantor and grantee will each need to pay $22.00 in transfer tax. Certain transfers are exempt from transfer tax. For example, transfers between family members do not require transfer tax. Every deed that gets recorded is accompanied by a transfer tax form that both the grantor and grantee sign.   

This article only serves as a simple starting point for understanding deeds. There is a lot more to real estate transfers. Check back for further discussion of real estate issues. If you are buying or selling real estate consult with an attorney to help you through the process.