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Questions & Answers

Check Deed

Begin by checking the way your ownership is described on the deed, because the wording may have serious ramifications years from now. All homeowners should make sure the deed says what you want it to.

Although a deed almost never mentions the house or other structures standing on a property, it provides an exact description of its location and boundaries. If there's any question about where the boundaries lie, you can usually resolve the question through a survey or by talking things out with your neighbors. See the section on boundary lines in chapter seven, "Love Your Neighbor?"

Although property buyers tend to focus on how big their property is and where its boundaries lie, two other items on the deed have far-reaching implications: the form of ownership and the way it's shared between owners.

Forms of Ownership

Let's start with the forms of home ownership, which have to do with how long the title is valid. These days, the most common form is fee simple. It's also the most complete, because, in theory, titles in fee simple are valid forever, unlike some of the older forms, such as an estate for years, where the title reverts to the former owner at some specified time. People who own property in a fee simple form may sell it, rent it out, transfer it to their heirs, and to some extent limit its use in the future.