A few of the counties we work in have the county recorder's records available online. Still, they don't have them all. The reliability of the online records is also questionable. Here is a typical disclaimer:
We have tried to ensure that the information contained in this electronic search system is accurate. The Recorder's Offices make no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or reliability of the content at this site or at other sites to which we link. Assessing accuracy and reliability of information is the responsibility of the user. The user is advised to search on all possible spelling variations of proper names, in order to maximize search results. The Ohio County Recorder's Offices shall not be liable for errors contained herein or for any damages in connection with the use of the information contained herein.
Online information is a good resource for some tasks. But, in my opinion, it is not sufficient for actually conducted a thorough title search. Some abstractors have told me in the past that they have discovered different results with the same search conducted online and at the courthouse. As the above disclaimer points out, you are responsible for errors if you rely on the online records.
And, if you need to get a map to scale you won't find that online. The Auditor's offices all have their records accessible online, but they aren't updated as frequently as the records maintained in their office. Clerks of court offices are hit and miss... some are online, some aren't. Even if they are, most do not provide access to documents so you can only review the docket. What is actually written on those documents and signed by the judge can have a huge impact on what you should be reporting - how can you accurately report the status of title without access to those documents?
I wonder if E&O insurance would cover a claim resulting from an online search, where the official records at the courthouse were more accurate. If the online records are "just as good," why is there a warning and disclaimer on the Web sites?
In my mind... you can't really do a title search online - at least not one I would be willing to be liable for. When I was a title agent, I would never have issued a policy based on an online search. Now that I am practicing law, I never make decisions or recommendations to my clients based on such a search. I still want someone physically going to the courthouse and checking the "official records" before I do anything.
But... while browsing the Internet this morning, I found several ads seeking applicants for "Remote Title Abstractor" positions. Here are a couple:
Search and examine real estate deeds, mortgages, easements, judgments and tax assessments to establish chain of title. Work from home... Train on-site, then work from home.
- High school diploma
- Six months title search or examination experience
- Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer
Work from home... as a Title Abstractor, Landman. Candidate will executing an examination of various property. Candidate will review and examine various property materials for accuracy and applicability and identify any restrictions that would limit the use of the property.
- High School Diploma or equivalent
- 2+ years experience in title abstracting or review work
- Proficient in Microsoft Office
Compensation: $12 to $15/hr
There were several similar ads for positions in various states, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. The requirements all seemed to require a high school diploma and six months to two years of experience. Seems like a relatively easy job to obtain.
I don't think this is a good trend for our industry. There is a lot riding on that title search and I cringe to think that they are being conducted like this... online by someone with very few qualifications. The fact they are "work from home" positions leads me to believe that there is very supervision going on.
I have said it many times before, and I will say it again. The title search is the foundation upon which all title policies are issued, and it is shocking that every other participant the process is required to be licensed, except the person doing that search. Realtors, mortgage brokers, appraisers, surveyors, title agents, and attorneys are all required to be licensed... but not the title abstractor. Think about this... an attorney has to be licensed to do something as simple as preparing a deed, yet the person who is charged with providing the information to ensure marketable title isn't.