As I mentioned in an earlier post, sometimes we come across interesting things in our title exams

The best is when we find out that the Seller really ISN’T the owner of the property.

While this may seem incredibly scary, there are usually a few explanations, and none of them as devious as you may believe.

Here are a few times a Buyer encounter this:


“We see this when properties are found on Craigslist or Facebook groups.  “Sellers” collect a deposit from the Buyer, usually wired into an account and immediately withdrawn and the money is lost forever.”

1.  The property is an estate sale. This occurs when the true owner of the property dies, and the Seller of the property is the Personal Representative for the estate.  For example, Mary Smith dies leaving her home at 123 Star Ave in Boston.  Mary’s daughter, Jane Jones, is named Personal Representative.  Jane Jones is signing the Purchase and Sale Agreement, but she is not the owner of record when you pull title.  How do we confirm this?  We look at the probate documents recorded in the county where Mary died to be sure Jane has the capacity to sign as Seller.

2.  The property is held in a trust. Sometimes, the Seller is the trustee of the trust, but instead of title being held by Mary Smith, it is the 123 Star Ave Realty Trust, with Mary as the named trustee.  Your Purchase and Sale may simply say Mary Smith, but when we review the Purchase and Sale, we make sure to correct it so that it conforms to the Registry of Deeds recordings.  This is a fairly common occurrence.

3.  The property is held in a Limited Liability Company, or LLC, but the person signing lacks the authority to sign documents pertaining to real estate. Oftentimes, we come across multiple manager LLCs where only one party has the authority to sign real estate-related documents.  If the LLC has never purchased or sold property, or rarely does so, they may not realize the improper party was signing.  How do we fix this one? Simple. We get the authorized manager to sign.

4.  Title shows that Jane Smith is the property owner, but the Purchase and Sale is signed by Jane Jones. Why is she selling property she doesn’t own? She probably isn’t.  It’s 2019.  Lots of people buy homes together before they get married, and that is undoubtedly what happened here.  If Jane never refinanced or re-deeded to her married name, title will still show her maiden name.  Same goes for when an owner divorces.  We correct this by adding “f/k/a” or “n/k/a” for formerly or now known as.  Problem solved

5.   This owner is not showing ANYWHERE! Well, that is a concern….. unless we are talking about an investor buyer. A lot of times wholesalers of properties will close on the property and immediately turn around and sell to their end buyer/investor.  But how do you know this is legit? It might sound really shady, but it isn’t.  We just ask for the contract showing that the “Seller” will be the “Owner of Record” prior to conveying to the end buyer.

6.  The purported Seller is a scammer. We see this when properties are found on Craigslist or Facebook groups.  “Sellers” collect a deposit from the Buyer, usually wired into an account and immediately withdrawn and the money is lost forever.  This is rare, but it DOES happen! As soon as you have an accepted offer on a home, please reach out to be sure that the person claiming to be the Seller is actually the owner and is entitled to get funds.  Additionally, you should never send any funds directly to the Seller.  Any deposit should go to the Seller’s real estate broker or attorney only!



Nothing Contained in this post creates an attorney/client relationship, and should not be construed as legal advice. Each scenario is different, and you should contact counsel for advice on your potential claim.

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