UPDATED: February 14, 2014
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When purchasing real property, you receive a written document known as "the deed", which transfers title and ownership of the property to you as the purchaser. The deed gives you formal title usually in exchange for a specified amount of money. The conveyance of real property is not complete until the deed is delivered to you or your authorized agent.
Recording the Deed
When you get the deed, you should record it with the county recorder in the county where the property is located. The purpose of recording the deed is to give "notice to the world" that you now have an ownership interest in that particular piece of real property.
Following the Chain of Title
Recording also tracks the chronological chain of title. Anyone wanting to know who owns a piece of real property can check the records of the county recorder for the county where the property is located. Before you purchase real property, you can follow the chain of sales and transfers of the property from the original grant of the land to the current owner. When title insurance is purchased, the title insurer checks the change of title to determine whether any defects occurred in prior conveyances and transfers. Defects may then be pointed out and excluded from coverage.
Getting Clear Title
As a purchaser of property, you want to check that every time the property was transferred, the grantor had clear title to the property and previous purchasers obtained clear title. If someone in the past got less than full title, you will also not get clear and marketable title. Your ownership will be subject to the legal claims of others.