our everyday life

Is It Safe to Buy Land With a Quit Claim Deed?

by John Louis

There are times when buying land with a quitclaim deed can be simpler than drawing up a standard real estate sales contract -- in some cases, you may not even need a lawyer. But relying solely on a quitclaim deed could cause complications down the road. Such deeds don't offer buyers the same protection as standard sales contracts. So, before buying land with a quitclaim deed, consult a lawyer.

No Guarantees

A quitclaim deed transfers a property owner's interest from one party to another. This type of deed does not guarantee the grantor is in legal possession of the property title or that there are no problems with the title. Warranty deeds, on the other hand, protect the buyer by guaranteeing that the seller owns and has the right to sell his land.

Appeal of a Quitclaim Deed

There are some advantages to buying land with a quitclaim deed. Unlike more complicated land transfer contracts, a quitclaim deed follows a general pattern. You could, for example, purchase a quitclaim deed kit for less than $20 and fill it out without the help of an attorney. Once the landowner and a notary sign the deed, you would deliver it to the county clerk's office and it's official.

Cause for Concern

Quitclaim deeds don't require the grantor to prove that he legally owns and has a right to sell the land he's transferring; for example, the landowner doesn't need to prove the his deed is free and clear of liens. As a result, the buyer has no guarantee that he will receive the land and has no legal recourse if it does not transfer as expected. Due to the uncomplicated process of filling out quitclaim deeds, they're also vulnerable to fraud.

When to Use

Quitclaim deeds are often used to add or remove a name from a property claim. For example, divorcing couples may use quitclaim deeds to transfer property ownership from one spouse to the other. This, however, does not change the terms of the mortgage, which must be re-negotiated separately. Quitclaim deeds also can be used if there is a cloud on a title. For example, a property search may reveal that someone, like a heir to a former owner, has a claim to part of the land, even though he does not have a land title. He can transfer his interest with a quitclaim deed.

About the Author

John Louis is an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C. He attended Columbia University, where he was editor-in-chief of the "Columbia Spectator." He is currently studying law at Georgetown University.