The title search is one of the most important components in looking at a property before you buy it. The Province of Ontario maintains records regarding every piece of property and these records affect what you are buying. A title search speaks to a number of specific issues that affect the property. First and foremost, it will tell you who owns the property, so you know who you should be dealing with to prepare an agreement of purchase and sale. Secondly, the title search will give you information about the nature of the property. This will include information on the size of the property, previous ownership of the property (for example, you will want to know that forty years ago the property was used as a gas station), and what currently affects the title of the property. This may sound like “legalese”, but, for example, the title search will tell you if there are mortgages registered on title that will need to be paid out prior to closing. This may have some bearing on your purchase price. For example, if a mortgage is outstanding on title, it could show that the seller owes more money than you are offering to pay for the property, and this may create a problem. Further, there may be items registered on title that suggest that the seller is in trouble with the property. These may include notices of sale for unpaid municipal taxes or construction liens. Both of these items will certainly affect how the seller approaches the agreement of purchase and sale.
The title search will also give you certain other information that can be helpful. There will almost always be registered plans on title (certainly in urban areas) and these plans are useful to get a sense of the dimensions of the property, the area of the property, where the boundaries are located and information on neighbouring properties. The search will show you that the property has access and on what streets there is approved access. Certain highways only have access by permission and you need to make sure that the permission is in place. A title search will also provide information which will help you review the zoning of the property; which will affect how you can develop it.
The search will also show you if the property is crossed by easements. Easements are a right granted over the property in favour of someone else, usually granting them access to your property. This may be for pedestrian and vehicular access or it may be an easement in favour of a utility or a municipality which would allow them to lay cables, pipes and other infrastructure. If the easement runs up through the middle of the property this may have a direct impact on what you can do with the property. Similar to this, there may be restrictive covenants registered which will prohibit you from using the property in certain ways. As you can well imagine, these are very important items to discover prior to closing your transaction, or for pricing the value of the property.
A title search is an expensive proposition, especially for complicated titles, but in the long run it is one of the most effective means of getting a sense of the value of the property, and of course, a complete title search will minimize the number of surprises the new owner may have after closing. After all, once you have paid your money and registered the deed, it is your property, so you will be bound by what has been registered on title.