Typically used in California, the grant deed is one of the ways that an owner, or grantor, can transfer title of real estate to a grantee, making her the new owner. Grant deeds carry some implied legal promises which make them valid in sales. They are roughly analogous to the warranty deeds that are used in many other states.
Deeds are documents that stand for a piece of land. In Medieval times, property ownership occurred through a process called the "livery of seisin." This was a special ceremony by which the owner of the land would actually give a piece of dirt, a twig, or some other physical representation to the new owner in the view of witnesses. The Statute of Uses passed by the British Parliament of 1535 through 1536 created the concept of using a paper deed instead of actually performing a deed, like giving a clump of dirt, to transfer property.
When an owner transfers title with a grant deed or other deed, he completes the document with a description of the property he is transferring, the date of the transfer, and to whom it is being transferred. For the deed to be valid, the soon-to-be-previous owner signs it in the presence of a notary. Once he delivers to the new owner, the ownership of the property has technically changed. However, usually, the ownership change isn't considered official until the new owner has it placed on the public record at the county recorder's office.
Grant Deed Specifics
What makes a grant deed unique is that the deed itself doesn't just convey land. It also carries promises from the grantor. First, the grantor provides a guarantee that he hasn't already deeded the property to anyone else. Second, the grantor guarantees that no liens remain against the property, other than those that get cleared off at the same instant as the transfer, like any mortgages or unpaid taxes that get paid at closing.
While grant deeds are common in California, other states use warranty deeds. Warranty deeds are similar to grant deeds but add a provision whereby the owner doesn't just promise that he's giving clear title but also agrees to help defend the title, if need be. Alternately, quit claim deeds transfer the ownership of property, but don't make any promises. It's legal to quit claim a property that you don't own, in fact.
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