This is the 4th article in this series. In case you have not read the other articles, here are directs links:
Now that you have a copy of this deed and determined it meets the criteria to use the shortcut, your next step is to search the title. You do this by visiting the recording office's website. In every county in Florida except Orange County, you will be looking at the Clerk of Court's website. In Orange County (our example title search from Part 3), it is the Orange County Comptroller's website. From there you look for "official records search" or a similar link. This will bring you to a grantor/grantee index search. The index is basically a name search indexed by the last names of the "grantor" (the person giving/signing the document) and the "grantee" (the person receiving the document). Now key in the book and page number for this first deed and it will bring up an actual copy of that document for you to view (our example deed is OR 5577/850 in Orange County, Florida for the property at 1456 Bahia Ave). The grantees' names on that deed are the people that bought the property in that transaction. *** Just for information, this particular property was chosen because of its interesting title and as far as I know is not listed for sale or distressed. ***
The next step is to search the grantees' name for anything that might show up in the official records. The grantees' names on the starting deed in our example are John F. Morales, Vilma Morales, Adalberto Benitez, and Ada E. Galarza. In this instance you would need to search all 4 names individually as both a grantee and as a grantor. If these grantees had more common names (i.e. Smith, Rodriguez) or owned multiple properties, this could be much more involved and lengthy to search. In the case of Vilma Morales, Adalberto Benitez, and Ada Galarza, you will need to use the property's legal description to eliminate several of the deeds and mortgages that show up in the grantor/grantee index.
This search will also provide a list of everything else recorded under this person's name in the date/time order that the document was recorded. You will find title documents like deeds, affidavits, divorces, probates, and foreclosure proceedings. You will also find liens like mortgages, judgments, tax liens, lis pendens, as well as satisfactions and releases of those liens.
With the title documents you need to assemble them into a chain of title showing one transfer of ownership to the next. You use your starting deed (either a WD or SWD) and then go to the next deed in the chain which might be another warranty deed, a quit-claim deed, probate, certificate of title from a foreclosure, or other deed. If a person is a grantee on the first deed in the chain, then subsequent deeds should show that person transferring their ownership to the next person. In this instance after the OR 5577/850 deed, you will find a quit-claim deed (QCD) in OR 5602/2972 conveying the property to John F. & Vilma Morales husband & wife, and then what appears to be a divorce decree between Mr. & Mrs. Morales in OR 9889/567 and 9968/6555. As a fail safe, double check this current owner with the property appraiser website to make sure neither you nor the property appraiser missed a deed. Since the property appraiser records match this chain of title, so now you move over to the mortgage and liens.
With mortgages and liens, you are checking to see if they are still valid or not. Mortgages, code enforcement liens, homeowner association liens, and construction liens are known as "specific liens" because they only affect the specific property referenced on the document. Court judgments, state tax liens, and federal tax liens are considered "general liens" because they are a lien against all property owned by the person named on the lien.
On this title, you will see a mortgage in OR 5577/851 which appears to be satisfied by OR 6515/3670. A mortgage in OR 6497/6288, assignment of this mortgage in OR 6497/6295, and a satisfaction in OR 7818/3568. A mortgage in OR 7794/2652 to JP Morgan Chase Bank which is apparently still open and a lien on the property.
There are also some court judgments against John Morales that may possibly be liens on the property as well - OR's 9706/22759, 9810/5965, 9819/7930, 9862/3041, and 9887/9386. Also some court judgments against Vilma Morales that may possibly be liens - OR's 9445/3298, 9576/1229, 9595/639, 9611/3622, 9841/8373, 10124/3110, and 10141/4951.
As for Mr. Benitez and Ms. Galarza, since they sold their interest in the property by the quit-claim deed in October 1998, any judgments and liens recorded after that deed was recorded would not attach to the property and can be ignored.
In the final installment of this series, I will discuss how to eliminate liens from the title and will provide a quick video that shows you how to quickly maneuver through the whole process.