Vail Daily column: Acquisition of land leads to confusion
February 12, 2016
I acquired a piece of land in another state through an accidental investment. I gave the original owner a loan, and I ended up owning the property when he went bankrupt. I am now selling the property, and I know very little about it. I just discovered that I actually acquired it by a quitclaim deed. My real estate agent wrote on my listing agreement that I would give a general warranty deed. I spoke with a friend in real estate who said that she would never give a general warranty deed if she got a quitclaim deed alone. What does that mean? What difference does it make? Any help would be appreciated.
Dear Confused Seller,
I would probably give the same advice your friend gave if I had a client in your shoes. Let's start at the beginning — a general warranty deed provides the greatest protection to the buyer because the seller is legally bound by certain strong, enduring covenants or warranties. Although each state has some small differences, a general warranty deed gives the following basic warranties:
• A covenant of seisin says that the seller covenants that he owns the property and can convey it and if that covenant is broken, then the seller may owe damages up to the full purchase price to the buyer.
• A covenant against encumbrances means that the seller warrants that the property is free and clear of all liens and encumbrances and the seller could be sued to pay to have any removed that might show up.
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• A covenant of further assurances says that the seller promises to obtain and deliver any instrument needed to make the title good.
• A covenant of quiet enjoyment says that the seller is guaranteeing that the buyer's title is good against any third party who might bring a court action to establish superior title to the property.
• A covenant of warranty forever says that the seller promises to compensate the buyer — forever — for any loss, if there is a title defect.
On the other hand, the quitclaim deed you received gives the buyer the least protection of any deed. It carries no covenants or warranties and generally conveys only whatever interest the seller may have when the deed is executed. Therefore, if the seller actually has no interest in the property, then the buyer acquires nothing. However, a quitclaim deed can convey property as effectively as a warranty deed if the seller has good title to begin with, but it has no guarantees or warranties. Consequently, most attorneys I know recommend not to give more than you received. Hence the advice not to give a general warranty deed when you received a quitclaim deed. Talk to your attorney and your agent to see how you should convey the property. There are other deeds as well that might work better. Good luck!
Joan Harned is an owner and broker for Keller Williams Mountain Properties and heads up Team Black Bear, her own real estate team. Harned has been selling real estate in Eagle County for 27 years, is a past chairman of the Vail Board of Realtors, past Realtor of the Year, past director on the Great Outdoors Colorado Board and a member of the Luxury and Land Institutes. Contact Harned with your real estate questions at Joan@TeamBlackBear.com, 970-337-7777 and http://www.SkiAndTeeHomes.com.
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