Almost everyone in this country either owns real property, has owned real property, or at least dreams of acquiring some property the future.
In order to buy or sell real property, whether a residence or simply land, most states and jurisdictions require the use of a deed, a notarized legal document that identifies the buyer and the seller, describes the property, and accomplishes property title transfer. This is true in all counties in Texas, including Bexar County.
What Is a Deed?
A deed is a legal document that knows how to multitask. This is the case in Texas as well as other states. It is used both to transfer title from the grantor (seller) to the grantee (buyer) and also to set out the guarantees the grantor is making to the grantee. It also serves to identify the owner of a piece of real property.
To this end, the original deed is filed in the county land title office. Any member of the public can review it to determine the current owner of the property, and, at the same time, review the different liens and other secured interests linked to the property.
Process of Preparing a Deed
Given the critical roles that deeds play in property ownership, it is clear that they are very important legal documents. Generally, deeds are prepared by attorneys for the parties to a land transfer but it is possible and legal for a buyer or seller to prepare the deed themselves.
A good understanding of the different types of deeds, the guarantees each carries, and the procedure for recording the deed in a particular locale are required. In fact, anyone owning or planning to own real estate in Texas should obtain a rudimentary understanding of the process involved.
Difference Between "Deed" and "Title"
Note that the terms "deed" and "title" are not synonymous. Title may sound specific, but it describes a concept of ownership rather than an official document. "I have title to this land" conveys the idea of ownership of a Texas property, as well as the legal rights that come with that ownership, but it is not a paper documenting ownership.
Rather, the written deed is the official document that shows that someone holds legal ownership (title) to a property.
Types of Deeds in Texas
One important consideration in the process of transferring real property in Texas is which type of deed to use. The deed serves to transfer title, but it also describes the guarantees about title that the grantor is making to the grantee.
Some property deeds in Texas carry warranties or promises about title that are actionable. That is, if the grantor makes warranties about title that are proved to be untrue, the grantee can take legal action to recover their damages.
To be a valid deed in this state, the document must include the intent to convey property, the legal description of the property, and a signature and acknowledgement of the grantor. There is no standard form for deeds in Texas. The state has a variety of standard types of deeds. They include all of the following, and each one is appropriate in particular circumstances:
- General Warranty Deed.
- Special Warranty Deed.
- Deed Without Warranties.
- Lady Bird Deed.
- Quitclaim Deed.
- Assumption Deed.
- Wraparound Deed.
- Trustee's Deed.
- Deed Incident to Divorce.
- Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure.
- Correction Deed.
Three Common Types of Texas Deeds
Although any and all of the deeds listed above can be used in Texas in special circumstances, most of the deeds commonly used are one of three types:
- General Warranty Deed.
- Special Warranty Deed.
- Deed Without Warranty.
Note that some deeds contain both express and implied warranties, which are promises about potential issues with title from prior deed transfers; others carry none. A general warranty deed includes the most guarantees about a title, while a deed without warranty does not include any guarantees.
Each type of deed is useful in some cases. Note that a quitclaim deed, popular in other states, is rarely used in Texas.
General Warranty Deed in Texas
A General Warranty Deed is a document that transfers title to the grantee with both express and implied warranties. This is the strongest form of deed available in Texas. By using this deed, the grantor warrants the entire chain of title all the way back to sovereign government.
The term "chain of title" involves every property transfer. The chain is created by linking a seller and a buyer, then, when the buyer sells, their buyer, then the person taking from this buyer, up to the current transaction.
This type of instrument is the strongest form of deed in Texas and the most frequently used in residential transactions. It should contain language promising that the grantor will defend the grantee against anyone claiming any interest in title:
"Grantor grants, and conveys to Grantee the Property, together with all and singular the rights and appurtenances thereto in any way belonging, to have and to hold it to Grantee and Grantee's heirs, successors, and assigns forever. Grantor binds Grantor and Grantor's heirs and successors to warrant and forever defend all and singular the Property to Grantee and Grantee's heirs, successors, and assigns against every person whomsoever lawfully claiming or to claim the same or any part thereof..."
Note that the warranty can be limited by a reservations clause, setting out exceptions.
Special Warranty Deed in Texas
A Special Warranty Deed also transfers title with both express and implied warranties and offers promises from the grantor to the grantee about the state of title.
Like the general warranty deed, the special warranty deed states that the title is free and clear from other claims. But the grantor extends this warranty only to problems that arose from transfers during the time the grantor owned the property, not to anyone else in the chain of title.
The conveyance language in a special warranty deed might read:
"Grantor grants, sells, and conveys to Grantee the Property, together with all and singular the rights and appurtenances thereto in any way belonging, to have and to hold it to Grantee and Grantee's heirs, successors, and assigns forever. Grantor binds Grantor and Grantor's heirs and successors to warrant and forever defend all and singular the Property to Grantee and Grantee's heirs, successors, and assigns against every person whomsoever lawfully claiming or to claim the same or any part thereof when the claim is by, through, or under Grantor but not otherwise..."
A Special Warranty Deed specifically limits protection to current time and does not protect the new owner against claims that arose before the grantor owned the property. Still, this is a very common type of deed in Texas used frequently in commercial transactions.
Deed Without Warranty in Texas
A Deed Without Warranty conveys a piece of property without any warranties at all, express or implied. This type of instrument offers no protections about title to the buyer and is considered the lowest form of deed in Texas. This deed may contain language like:
"Grantor grants, sells, and conveys to Grantee the Property, together with all and singular the rights and appurtenances thereto in any way belonging, to have and to hold it to Grantee and Grantee's heirs, successors, and assigns forever, without express or implied warranty. All warranties that might arise by common law as well as the warranties in section 5.023 of the Texas Property Code (or its successor) are excluded."
Given the nonexistent warranties, a Deed Without Warranty is not regularly used in Texas residential or commercial property acquisitions. However, it can be used for properties purchased at a tax sale or inheritance properties with title issues, when a grantor might be unsure of what type of interest they own in a property, if any.
Quitclaim Deeds in Texas
A quitclaim deed is not really a deed as such. As the term implies, it is simply a release of the grantor's claims of title to the new owner, but makes no promises about what if any title they hold.
A quitclaim also makes no warranties regarding the validity of the title. This means another person or entity could come forward to interfere with the rights of the new property owner.
While in other states, like California, quitclaim deeds are valid and regularly used to transfer title among family members, this is not the case in Texas. Given the lack of warranty and unconditional conveyance language, Texas title companies will not insure title if there are quitclaim deeds found in the chain of title.
Bexar County Title Transfer
To complete a Bexar County deed transfer, it is necessary to have a completed deed. This is where an attorney comes in handy, since they can offer advice about which deed is best in the situation.
Generally, if acting without an attorney, demand a General Warranty Deed if the land is for a residence, or a Special Warranty Deed when the property is commercial. Do not accept a Deed Without Warranty.
Be sure the deed correctly lists the parties, street address and legal description of the property. Look at property tax records for the legal description details. A buyer would do well to confirm that the seller holds full title to the property by conducting a title search in Bexar County.
Verifying Property Titles
If there is any doubt as to who currently holds the title on a property in Bexar County, run a search online from the county website. Navigate to the property search option and enter the address of the parcel in question. Recent deed information and title ownership will be provided in the search results.
Alternatively, visit the office of the Bexar County Clerk to obtain this information in person. It's also a good idea to verify that the property does not have any outstanding back taxes, liens or other financial burdens that haven't been revealed prior to the transfer. Again, an attorney can assist with, or handle, all of this.
Finalizing a Deed
The deed itself must outline the property description and identifying information about the grantor and grantee. This is as true for a Special Warranty Deed as for a General Warranty Deed. Both parties to a sales transaction must sign the deed, and the signatures must be notarized on both types of deed. At this point the deed is valid between the two parties.
However, to be sure that the deed binds strangers as well, it is necessary to take the original deed to the Bexar County Clerk's office. Once it's filed there, the deed becomes part of the public record, putting all members of the public on notice about the transaction.
While this is not important between buyer and seller, it can become important if a dishonest grantor sells it to a buyer in week one, then to another buyer a month later. If the first buyer has recorded their deed, the subsequent buyer will be considered put on notice of the sale and cannot claim ownership under a later deed.
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an MA and an MFA in English/writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.