The lost art of the (chain of title) search

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Note Builders, Inc. Keller Williams

I can remember in the early eighties at 20 sitting in a real estate practices class. I was deciding what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Do I want to sell real Estate? Can I sell Real Estate. Can I make money at it? Can I own it, fix it up, sell it and make a profit? I was probably about to fall asleep in Community College night school after working a full day at the grocery store (Alpha Beta).

Well in 30 years not much has changed only now I am sitting in Starbucks waiting for my youngest of four to finish Water polo practice. I am contemplating having experienced at least 3 business cycles this one is the most severe and humbling. I think it is important to occasionally sit down and reflect on how much things change how much they stay the same.

I can remember the first project I was given in that Real Estate class that more or less hooked me was the suggestion that we should go to the County Recorders and do a chain of title search on the house we were living in or owned. Even back then I could have gone to the title rep and asked for a property profile with a chain of title and satisfied that request. However I chose in my naivete to make a drive to the Los Angeles county recorders office and look for myself on the microfiche tapes. The microfiche tapes back then were the newest technology and title insurance companies would send their runners to check for recordings, liens, judgments, etc.

What I didn't realize that day until I followed the chain of title on that La County property on Maimone Street in San Dimas was that I was able to follow the chain of title to that property all the way back to the Spanish Ranchos when California became a state and then Los Angeles became a city and county. I found myself in the second or third floor basement level of the county building rummaging thru volumes and volumes of subdivision map books about a foot by two feet all showing me vivid history of how the state and county grew over the decades. I learned who every owner was, when they bought the property, how long they owned it. I could see when it went from meets and bounds to a subdivision. I could see the tax stamps on the maps and could tell how the values changed over time.

What an experience back then, and here I am thirty plus years later contemplating the business cycles I have experienced and the few notations I have left on some microfiche in the basements of county buildings in California.

It's time to go get my daughter from practice.

Terry Lewis is the COO of Note Builders, Inc. Note Builders is a MLO that specializes in seller financing compliance under Dodd Frank and the SAFE Act.






Posted by
Terry Lewis COO
NMLS #517367 DRE#01898702

Keller Williams, Yes Team
Owner, broker #00686433
Cell: 858-699-3139
Fx: 858-345-3726
Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Condo Realty, 386-405-4408 - Daytona Beach, FL
Buy Daytona condos for heavenly good prices


I have never actually done it. Can only imagine going far back to real history. Imagine the feeling

Oct 06, 2011 04:41 PM
Melissa Ostrom & Melville Capps Newton MA - The Mel and Mel Team
(617) 388-3151 | Century 21 Commonwealth - Newton, MA

Terry, I've done it once, and was quite a task.

Melville Capps

Oct 06, 2011 04:53 PM
Carlotta Remong
Berkshire Hathaway HS N.E. Prime Properties - Newport, RI

Great is not easy, like everyone thinks. Thanks for sharing

Oct 06, 2011 05:00 PM
Jordon Wheeler
The Jordon Wheeler Group - Fairburn, GA
J W Group Real Estate Sales and Service

Hey Terry, what a great post!  Suggest.  There is something fascinating about going back in time and capturing history from something as routine as a title search.  I can hear some passion coming from the class project that helped to develop your success in real estate.  Continued success to you!

Oct 06, 2011 05:14 PM