What Is a Title Search?

Posted November 25, 2019

Whenever a landowner makes the decision to sell his mineral rights on a piece of property, there are certain steps that must take place before the sale can be finalized (you can read about what the process of selling your mineral rights looks like with Gateway Royalty here.  One of those steps is that a title search must be done on the property.

When we inform landowners of this, they often respond by asking: What exactly is a title search? This is a good question. Most people, even if they’ve heard the term “title search” before, don’t actually know what happens during a title search. Since it’s helpful to have an understanding of what occurs during this important step of the mineral rights sale process, we thought we’d share that information here today.

What happens during a title search?

With a title search, we look back on all the existing public records (both physical and electronic) for a piece of land or parcel. In many cases, these records date back to when the land was first patented by the U.S. government in the 1800s. These searches show any recorded transactions or changes or ownership that have happened with the property over the years, any debts or liens against the property, and any other relevant information related to the property.

Why do we do title searches for mineral sales?

With mineral sales, the purpose of the title search is to verify the individual who is selling their minerals is the person who actually owns them. Since land rights and mineral rights can be sold separately, we need to confirm the minerals and/or royalty interest were never severed out or reserved, or previously sold, during the chain of title for that piece of land. In a nutshell, the reason we do it is: We can’t pay a mineral owner who doesn’t own the minerals.

Who conducts a title search?

At Gateway Royalty, we have our own title search professionals in house. These are individuals who have been doing title searches for decades—many with specific experience doing them in the state of Ohio (where we are based)—so they know exactly what they’re looking for and they’re experts at what they’re doing. They’re running this title all the way back to the mid-to-early 1800s to make sure that there weren’t any reservations of oil and gas during the title change.

Does it cost a landowner to have a title search done?

When landowners work with Gateway Royalty on a mineral sale, there is no charge to them for a title search. We cover all the costs internally, so you don’t have to worry about any of that. Now if you wanted to hire someone to search a title for you personally, you would have to pay a professional to do it. Looking through these records takes time, effort and skill. The experts who do it charge for their services.

How long does it take to search a property title?

It depends. Sometimes a title search can be done in as little as a few days. Sometimes it takes weeks for more complex searches. It really depends on the history of the property—how much the land has been split up or how many different owners it’s had. For example, farms that have been in the same family for generations are usually pretty easy to search because you’re just looking at the documents connecting the title. Also, you would think less land would make for an easier search, but it’s actually the opposite. The more land there is. the easier it is to search. An 80-acre or 150-acre parcel is typically quicker and easier to run.

Why might some title searches take longer?

Sometimes parcels have been split into two and then rejoined, and that can cause different paths you have to run down. So essentially, you end up running multiple title searches for one piece of property because of how it was severed in the past. When it starts getting detailed is when that parcel starts getting broken down and you have to follow different title chains back and then connect the dots. You may have two, three, or four different title chains connecting it to one parcel of land.

Still, even on the most complex title searches, it should never take us more than a month to complete a title search. We know people who are selling their mineral rights want to get the deal done so they can receive their money, and—as long as the title search verifies their mineral ownership—we typically get everyone paid within 60 days.

Are you an Ohio landowner thinking about selling your mineral rights? Find out if Gateway Royalty is interested in making you an offer.

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