1. How clean is the title?

The title report is like a “medical file” for real property. Your lender will hire a title examiner in order to get title insurance, and you should read the title examiner’s report and review the supporting documents to see where the easements are, what the restrictive covenants, if any, might be, and who has owned it (preferably not a maker of toxic products).

(Your lender will buy a title policy in case its rights are challenged by a prior owner or lienholder. You should probably buy an owner’s title policy, just in case someone claims an interest or lien against your land. The insurer would in that case defend your rights. Such policies are relatively cheap considering the risks and troubles of title litigation.)

2. How far does the public right-of-way extend into the property?

The city or county will not likely use all of the right-of-way, but if there is a chance that cars, trucks, and sidewalks might be 20 feet closer to your house, you probably want to know!.

3. Do the boundaries and structures on the surveys and plats match what you see on the property?

I recently walked through a foreclosed property. Unfortunately, the lender had not. The house as built long ago straddled the adjacent lot by three to six feet from front to back. When the lender foreclosed on the property, it became a trespasser on the lot next door.

Title insurance policies generally do not cover things that would be apparent or obvious to a surveyor. By closing the loan without obtaining having someone check the survey, the lender threw away the loan. The lender cannot sell the foreclosed property because it trespasses on the adjacent property, nor can the lender collect on its title insurance because it did not look for the obvious. Moreover, the lot next door is owned by the family that once owned the foreclosed house. They are suing the lender for trespass and theft by conversion.

Before you buy, walk the property with the survey or the plat in your hands, or pay someone to do so.