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Pennsylvania Real Estate Title Transfer Laws

by Joe Stone

Transferring title to real estate in Pennsylvania requires following both state and local requirements. The essential requirement is that the transfer be expressed in writing, most often in the form of a deed. Although a deed is always binding on the parties involved with the transfer, it is not binding on anyone else unless it is recorded in the office of the Recorder of Deeds in the county where the property is located. In some areas, a recorded deed must also be registered with the local municipality.

Pennsylvania Deed Requirements

Although Pennsylvania law recognizes the use of different types of deeds to transfer title, such as a warranty deed or quit claim deed, the basic requirements for all deeds are the same. A deed must be in writing, state the name of the current owner, include the legal description for the real estate being transferred and state the name of the new owner. The deed only concerns title to the real estate. The type of improvements on the real estate, such as a single-family home, does not affect the deed.

State Recording Requirements

Each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties has a Recorder of Deeds office responsible for recording all deeds transferring real estate title within their respective county. State law sets the basic requirements for a deed presented for recording. The requirements cover such things as the form of the deed -- that is, the deed must be prepared on 8½” by 11” white 20 pound paper, with a minimum font size of 10 point and one-inch margins on all pages. State law requirements also cover the content of a deed. For example, the deed must identify the county and municipality where the real estate is located and include a notary's acknowledgment for any signature on the deed. The deed must also include appropriate information regarding the transfer taxes due, which is the responsibility of the Recorder of Deeds to collect.

Local Recording Requirements

A county's Recorder of Deeds may also set local recording requirements. For example, in Montgomery County, a deed must be registered by the Montgomery County Board of Assessments before it can be recorded. The deed must also include the Assessor’s Parcel Number. After the deed is recorded, it must be registered with certain municipalities, such as Norristown and Abington. In Allegheny County, a deed must be accompanied with a Certificate of Residence form, which is used by the county to verifying the correct addresses to mail property tax bills and assessment notices.

Deed Transfer Taxes

Pennsylvania law imposes state and local taxes for recording a deed that transfers title to real estate. The state tax is 1 percent on the value of the real estate, which includes the improvements on the property. Local taxes vary, but often include two taxes -- one for the municipality and the other for the local school district. A deed will not be accepted for recording without payment of the transfer taxes.