Real Estate Transactions And The Law: The Basics

A transfer of property from one person or persons to another party is a legal transaction. Various legal concepts and legal forms are involved in property conveyance, which anyone participating in real estate transactions should be aware of. This article takes a look at some of the most important aspects of property transfer law.

Warranty Deed

The legal form that finalizes the conveyance of a piece of real estate from one party to another is the deed. Several types of deeds are used to transfer property, one of which is the warranty deed. This deed guarantees the buyer of the property that there are no claims on the property, such as a lien, that could undermine the buyer's title. If there is another claim on the title despite the seller's guarantee, then the seller must compensate the buyer for any losses incurred.

Quitclaim Deed

The quitclaim deed merely transfers the seller's property to the buyer. It does not give the buyer any guarantees that no other claims on the title exist. The buyer assumes all of the legal and financial risks if some other party has a prior or superior claim to the property. Accepting a quitclaim deed is obviously much riskier for a buyer than a warranty deed, which is why they are typically only used in special situations, such as when spouses are divorcing.


Some states have a deed called a transfer on death (TOD) deed. This deed transfers a piece of property to a stated beneficiary on the death of the owner. No money changes hands. The main purpose of the deed is to avoid probate.

Joint Tenancy

When one or more people purchase a property together, they have to make a choice of how they will hold the title. The first option is called joint tenancy. Under this legal concept, the buyers will hold the title in equal shares. Also, the buyers must all purchase the property together at the same time.

Tenancy in Common

Another way to hold a title with other people is called tenancy in common. Unlike joint tenancy, the owners of a property do not need to have equal shares. For example, one owner might have a 50 percent interest in a piece of real estate, while five others each have a 10 percent interest. Also, the owners do not need to purchase their shares of the property at the same time.

Clearly, real estate law is complex and difficult for the average person to navigate on their own. To protect your interests in any real estate transaction, consult with a local real estate lawyer.