Among the many mysterious line items buyers see on their statements of closing costs, the cost of recording a title transfer may be one of the most confusing. Recording fees are charged by the county recording agency in the jurisdiction in which the property is located – the county recorder is the entity responsible for maintaining public records of each property transfer for the purpose of enabling title searches.
Recording fees vary by county, from as low as zero in Alaska, to state and municipal transfer taxes that can run into the thousands of dollars. The recording fees charged depend on the nature and volume of the documents. According to the Homebuying Institute, the average document recording fee in the United States is $125.
In a real estate purchase, the title company or lawyer will deliver all recordable documents to the recorder’s office in your county. There, a recorder of deeds, county clerk or another official will handle the recording tasks.
What Documents Are Recorded?
The first step in recording is the presentation of the deed, along with copies to the recorder’s office. The copy of the deed, along with a map of the subject property, are filed according to the county’s filing system. Once entered and filed, the original deed is returned to the property owner.
The relevant county office maintains an index of the recorded documents, organized according to the time period during which the deed was recorded.
Over 100 types of documents can be recorded. Among documents that must be recorded are agreements or options to purchase, deeds, mortgages, mortgage releases, plats or surveys, assignments, mineral rights deeds, easements, extensions, foreclosures, land grants, leases, liens, oil, gas, or coal leases, or subordinations. Most significantly for homebuyers, most counties require the recording of mortgages and other liens against a piece of property along with recording the property’s title.
Why Record Deeds?
The public recording of these documents creates a chain of title. This chain provides the entire history of the property, and helps to verify the property’s history of ownership. These records are public – anyone can access these records to learn who owns your property. These public records guard against fraudulent transfers and inadvertent disruptions in the chain of title that can lead to costly litigation down the road. Your title insurance company will evaluate these records as part of a title search and issue a title insurance policy that protects your rights as an owner.
Failing to record the transaction or missing or failing to pay a recording fee can lead to a number of problems including possible disputes over ownership and trouble getting a mortgage. For this reason, most mortgage lenders will not finalize the paperwork for a mortgage until the recording fees are paid in full and the transaction is registered with the county. The process of finalizing these records occurs at the real estate deal’s closing.
It is important to keep in mind that recorded documents are not strictly necessary to establish who owns a property – an ownership claim may be valid even if it has not been recorded. Title insurance exists, in part, to protect against valid claims that have not been properly recorded. Instead, recording helps to establish a consistent chain of title and to resolve disputes between parties with competing claims to a property.
State And Municipal Transfer Stamps Or Fees
Although not technically a recording fee, transfer taxes — also called transfer stamps — are fees set by the state and/or local government that must be paid in order to transfer ownership from the seller to the buyer. These fees add to the cost of recording title.
Transfer taxes are generally assessed as a percentage of either the sale price or the fair market value of the property being bought or sold. State and municipal statutes usually describe transfer tax as a set rate for every $500 or $1,000 of the property’s value.
Wisconsin’s state transfer tax is set at $3.00 per $1,000 of the property’s sale price. In Illinois, state transfer taxes are set at $0.75 per $500, with county transfer taxes at $0.25 per $500 in most counties, and additional taxes levied from municipality to municipality. In Chicago, both buyers and sellers must pay a transfer tax. For further reading, a list of transfer stamps in every municipality in Illinois is available here.
Who Pays Recording Fees?
In most instances, the buyer pays the recording fees for the new mortgage and deed to be entered into the public record. However, this is a matter of custom, not a requirement. The buyer and seller are free to negotiate this cost as a part of a seller concession on a given transaction. While some closing fees and costs are tax deductible, recording fees are not.
How Do I Know That My Deed Was Recorded?
It’s always a good practice to make sure that your deed was properly recorded and filed. To confirm that your deed was recorded, your attorney or title representative will be able to provide you with a copy of the recording page for the deed. If it’s been a while since you purchased your home, you can also perform a public records search in the county in which your home is located. In some counties, the relevant records are searchable online, in others, a visit to the county recorder’s office may be necessary.
Learn More With Your Trusted Title Insurance Company
Making sure your deed is properly recorded is only one of many areas where a trusted title insurance partner is a vital part of the homebuying process. Protecting your interests and assets during a home purchase with title insurance may be the most important thing you’ll ever do — and you don’t have to navigate the ins and outs of owner’s and lender’s title insurance policies alone. If you have questions about what title insurance can do to protect you, what it involves, or how to get it, Landtrust Title Services can help. Please contact us today at [email protected] or by phone at 312.528.9210 to get answers to all of your questions.