What is the difference between a General Warranty Deed and a Special Warranty Deed?

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If you’re planning to purchase a property, it’s important to know the difference among the types of instruments that can convey title to a property. The three instruments most commonly used to convey title are the general warranty deed, special warranty deed, and quitclaim deed. Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences between these instruments.

General warranty, special warranty, and quitclaim deeds are all ways to transfer ownership of real property, but offer very different promises to the recipient of that title. All three forms of title offer the buyer or transferee the assurance that they are receiving the same interest in the property that the seller or transferor themselves had, so that the transferor no longer has any legal right to possess the property. From there, the rights obtained through the different forms of title diverge.

  • A general warranty deed promises that the seller owns the property being sold, that they have the legal right to sell the property and haven’t already sold it to someone else, and that there are no other legal claims, liens, or debts attached to the property being sold.
  • A special warranty deed offers slightly less broad of a promise to the buyer. While a general warranty deed assures the buyer that there are no other liens or claims on that property, and that the seller will defend the buyer’s status as the rightful legal owner of property against any other claims of ownership, the special warranty deed makes that promise only for the period that the seller owned the property. In other words, if someone claims to have a legal right to all or part of the property you buy, but the claim arose prior to when the previous owner had title to the property, then that seller has no duty to defend your rightful ownership of the property.
  • With a quitclaim deed, the transferor promises only that the transferor is giving what he or she had to the transferee. There is no guarantee regarding liens or claims on the property. Generally, quitclaim deeds are used when property is being transferred through a will, or when someone’s name is being added or taken off of a title pursuant to a marriage or divorce, and not when a property is being sold.

Most sellers will provide a general warranty deed to a buyer. If a seller does not offer you a general warranty deed when you purchase a piece of property, make sure you understand the risks entailed, and speak with a Maryland real estate attorney before committing to the sale.

If you are in need of assistance with the purchase of property in Maryland, or with another legal issue regarding real estate or construction law, ensure your interests are protected by obtaining experienced legal representation on your case, and contact Annapolis real estate attorneys at Matthew S. Evans III, LLC to assist you with your case, at 410-626-6009.

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