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Who is the Legal Property Owner? Why Assuming Creates Problems

By October 6, 2014No Comments

Legal Property OwnerIn real estate, you count on your clients to be forthcoming with information, but this doesn’t always end up being the reality of things.

It seems that there are three different groups of people where non-disclosure is concerned:

  • Those who innocently omit information because they forgot or didn’t think it was relevant. This can often occur when there is a parent or sibling on title, where the client is managing the transaction. This could be in the cases of spouses where one is acting with the consent of the other so didn’t think that they had to disclose the other person. The list can go on and on where innocent omissions are concerned.
  • Then you have those who are scheming for one reason or another. This can be the case in situations of separation and divorce or even where a dispute is taking place.
  • Finally you have the group that are out to commit outright real estate fraud.

Generally speaking you are most likely to run into the first group, less likely to encounter the second group and hopefully, even less likely to encounter the last group. What is true of all 3 groups though is that a little bit of due diligence goes a long way with respect to taking on a new client – whether the client is a buyer or seller.

Even if you meet with a potential customer, they impress you in an interview and you have little to no suspicion to believe that they have failed to disclose information – you still should do your due diligence! These days it is difficult to simply count on documents provided by your client validating that they are the owner.

It is always advantageous to verify preliminary information first.

  • Interview the client: If a seller, directly ask if there is anyone else on title. When the client signs off on the agreement for you to represent them, take a copy of their ID at that point (rather than waiting until an offer has taken place).
  • After signing up with your client – perform your own search online to confirm that your client is the rightful property owner and that there are no other undisclosed parties on title.
  • Listing your client’s house for sale – now that you have performed your own search, you can feel confident with the information you are representing on your listing.
  • If another owner comes up, simply ask your client again. Once you know for a fact they will have to explain why. More often than not you will find out it was an innocent omission and the other party on title will sign your agreement.
  • If representing a buyer: once you have found a property that your client is interested in making an offer on, you can run a search to confirm the name of the seller(s)/current owner(s) and also any mortgages registered on title. This will help you to better understand the positioning of the seller. 

Instead of making assumptions based on what the client or worse, another real estate sales professional, tells you, find out the information yourself. This will lead to more efficiency and cleaner closings.

Assuming can often lead to problems, so make sure that you are protecting yourself and your client. Find out more at or call 1-866-237-5937.