A deed is a legal document used to transfer ownership of property from one party to another. There are different types of deeds, and each serves a specific legal purpose depending on the known and unknown history of the property, the existence of a lien, and/or other encumbrance like a mortgage.
The six most common types of deeds are:
This list of deeds explains the specifics of each individual deed type and when to use them:
1. Quitclaim Deed
A quitclaim deed is used to transfer property between familiar parties, such as family members or even divorced spouses. That’s because unlike other types of deeds, a quitclaim deed offers little legal protection to the grantee (the recipient of the transfer).
For example, if the grantor turns out not to legally own the property outlined in the deed, the grantee can’t take legal action.
In addition, there are no legal protections against liens or other encumbrances that might exist on the property. Quitclaim deeds involve a high degree of trust as a result, and are preferred by people who know each other well.
This type of deed can also be used if the grantor isn’t entirely sure of the title’s status, and whether or not it has any defects.
2. Deed of Trust
A deed of trust transfers the title of an asset from a trustor to the trustee for the benefit of a third party, known as the beneficiary.
Most often, a deed of trust is used instead of a mortgage, acting as security against a loan that a trustor has transferred to a trustee. Essentially, the trustee holds the property until the borrower has paid off the debt, agreeing to sell the property in the event that the borrower defaults on their loan.
The trustee retains possession of the legal title to the property (which entails legal and financial responsibility), while the borrower keeps the equitable title, meaning they are legally able to enjoy or use the property.
3. Warranty Deed
Different types of warranty deeds are used to offer various legal protections to the grantor, in the event there’s a problem or defect with the title once it’s been transferred.
Warranty deeds come with different levels of protection, and are split into two distinct categories:
General Warranty Deed
Typically used in residential real estate transactions, a general warranty deed guarantees that the seller has the full legal right to sell the property, and that the property is completely free and clear of debts, liens, or other encumbrances.
This type of deed comes with the most significant protection for the grantee, and provides them legal recourse in the event an unsettled debt or issue with the deed arises.
Special Warranty Deed
A special warranty deed protects a grantee against any issues or claims that might have arisen during the time the grantor owned the property entirely. It doesn’t apply to the entire history of the property, as the property’s whole history isn’t likely known by the current owner.
Most often, this type of deed is used in the sale of residential real estate, or for commercial property. While not providing as much legal protection as a general warranty deed, it does:
- Assure that the grantor is the legal owner of the property title, and
- Guarantee that the property was not somehow encumbered during the time when the grantor had ownership.
4. Grant Deed
A grant deed is a specific deed type that transfers the interest in a property from the seller to the buyer in exchange for a previously agreed upon price.
While the grant deed guarantees that the seller owns the property entirely, it doesn’t offer the buyer legal protection against any title defects such as an:
- error in public records
- improper signature
- undisclosed lien
- boundary dispute
5. Bargain and Sale Deed
This type of real estate deed is used in the sale or transfer of residential real estate; however, it offers no guarantee that the property is free of debts or liens. It only states that the grantor is the title-holder, and little else.
As with a quitclaim deed, the grantee would acquire any lien in place against the property along with the title.
6. Mortgage Deed
A mortgage deed is a document signed between a homeowner and a bank or lending institution, allowing said institution to put a lien on the property if the loan isn’t repaid. This deed secures property as collateral for a loan — meaning a “mortgage payment” is paid towards a loan debt, with the house serving as security in the event of a default.
When a mortgage deed is in effect, the legal title to the property is held by the financial institution for the duration of the loan repayment period
The various types of real estate deeds all serve different functions, and offer differing levels of protection during the transfer of a property or piece of land. Knowing the difference between deeds can help you understand which level of protection is necessary for your real estate transaction.