Many things make Iowa unique, but one thing is Iowa's abstract real estate system. An abstract is a document that is produced by an abstract and title company that contains the history of a parcel of real estate from the beginning of statehood, to the current owner. Each deed, each mortgage, each lease, each document that affects the real estate, is listed in summary fashion in the abstract. An abstractor searches the court records as well as the county recorder records to determine the relevant documents. Some abstracts can be extremely thick if there are a lot of transactions involving the real estate. After the abstract is completed, it is provided to the attorney for the buyer, or sometimes the lender's attorney, to review the prior transactions for the real estate (chain of title issues). What the examining attorney is looking for is confirmation that title was passed from A to B to C to D and so forth. Also, the examiner will determine whether there are any liens against the property, whether the mortgages were properly released, whether the probate records match up to the transfer and any tax issues. The examiner will provide a title opinion, which is just a written opinion letter as to the status of the title with the property and any items that need to be addressed before closing on the sale. Often the title opinion is performed at a flat-rate charge. Once completed, the seller will have to address any title issues before they can pass title to the buyer. If you have questions over the Iowa real estate transfer system, contact an attorney experienced in real estate law to answer questions that you may have.
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