Special vs. General Warranty Deed

A deed is a written document signed by the grantor whereby title to realty is transferred to the grantee.  To be valid, a deed must be delivered to and accepted by the grantee and must contain the legal description of the property. 

Types of Deeds

There are several types of deeds that are commonly used to convey real property.  What distinguishes one type of deed from another type of deed are the warranties contained therein.  The most common types of deeds are: 

  • The General Warranty Deed;
  • The Special Warranty Deed; and
  • The Quitclaim Deed. 

What is a General Warranty Deed?

A general warranty deed is a deed in which the grantor warrants good and marketable title.  A warranty deed contains covenants or guarantees concerning the quality of the title conveyed by the grantor.  A general warranty deed contains the following covenants: 

  • Seisin (the right of possession);
  • Quiet enjoyment;
  • Right to convey;
  • Freedom from encumbrances; and
  • Defense of title as to all claims. 

Ideally, any purchaser of real estate would receive a general warranty deed because it offers the greatest degree of protection against challenges to his title to the property. 

What is a Special Warranty Deed?

A special warranty deed is a deed whereby the grantor warrants the state of title only during the time of his ownership of the property.  A special warranty deed only protects the grantee from defects in title caused by the grantor.  Special warranty deeds, also known as limited warranty deeds, are frequently used by investors, banks, builders, developers, and other business entities to transfer title to property.  These business entities prefer to convey title via special warranty rather than general warranty deed because special warranty deeds place no responsibility on a grantor to correct defects in title, including clearance of encumbrances that may or may not have been present at the time the grantor initially acquired title to the property. 

What is a Quitclaim Deed?

A quitclaim deed transfers whatever interest a grantor has in a parcel of land but contains no assurance or warranties. Quitclaim deeds are generally used in transactions between family members and others with a close personal relationship. 

Should All Deeds be Recorded?

Although there is no legal requirement that a deed be recorded, recording is the only way for a grantee to protect his legal interest in the property.  State law governs the form a deed must take to be recordable. 

Getting Legal Help

Anyone selling or transferring title to property should hire an experienced real estate attorney.  A real estate attorney will run a title search to determine whether title to the property is clear, will assist the grantor in clearing title, if necessary, will draft the deed, assist the grantor in executing it, and will have it recorded.

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