Abstract of Title – Definition

Cite this article as:"Abstract of Title – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated March 29, 2019, last accessed October 20, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/abstract-of-title/.

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Abstract of Title Definition

An “Abstract of Title” is a document that lists the transactions related to a certain piece of real estate. The “title” referenced in the term is the property deed. The abstract of title is an important document for real-estate analysis. It shows all of the transactions a particular piece of property has been involved in, including sales, transfers, and other important information.

A Little More on What is an Abstract of Title

Certain types of transactions are cataloged under a registry system. The registration system for titles and other real estate transactions is based on the Real Estate Conservation Registry. Most titles that involve the transfer of property or property rights must be recorded in the registry.

An abstract of title serves two key purposes: preparation and prevention.

In terms of preparation, an abstract of title is used by lawyers and other professionals in a preparatory capacity to ensure that all of the necessary property titles (ownership history) are in order. Usually, these documents are used to verify one party’s ownership of the property in question before a transfer of ownership contract is signed. Essentially, an abstract of title prepares a contract for a valid and lawful execution.

Abstracts of titles also serve in a preventive capacity. Lawyers use these types of documents to assure their clients that the paperwork for their real estate transaction is in order. By verifying the sellers rightful and complete ownership of the respective property, a lawyer assures his client that there are no third parties that could challenge either the clients claim to the aforementioned property. An abstract of title prevents the effectiveness of future litigation that disputes the property rights by providing a solid and indisputable legal foundation on which a legal argument can be built.

A proper abstract of title is an integral part of any real estate rights transaction. Its preparatory function enables attorneys and contract parties to close on deals quickly and efficiently, with full confidence that an executed contract will be valid and fully enforceable in a court of law. Additionally, an abstract of the title gives lawyers an air-tight legal argument in the event that the validity of an agreement is attacked legally.

References for Abstract of Title

Academic Research on Abstract of Title

   An economic analysis of the land title systems for transferring real property, Janczyk, J. T. (1977). The Journal of Legal Studies, 6(1), 213-233.

    A property of multilinear operations, Pełczyński, A. (1957). Studia Mathematica, 16(2), 173-182.

   Title insurance, Johnstone, Q. (1956). Title insurance. Yale LJ, 66, 492.

   Limitations of Actions Affecting Title to Real Estate, Brehmer, H. K. (1945). Limitations of Actions Affecting Title to Real Estate. Minn. L. Rev., 30, 23. An abstract of title is a vital document for ensuring the property rights of landowners is protected and verifiable, but this study compares the pros and cons of the system in detail. The author studies the pros and cons of property ownership with a registry-based system and without one. Using a registry system certainly offers more security to property owners, but there are higher costs associated with maintaining and accessing the registry system. The writer predicts that demand for registration will rise in conjunction with property values, landowner education, and proximity to central government. Information from Kenyan land registries supplied the data for this study.

•    Historical indigenous peoples’ land claims: a comparative and international approach to the common law doctrine on indigenous title, Gilbert, J. (2007). International & Comparative Law Quarterly, 56(3), 583-611. This study examines the rights of indigenous peoples’ claim to historically inhabited lands under the current legal system. The writer examines how certain legal philosophies are developing that account for the land rights of indigenous people based on their historical use and occupancy of the land. The piece’s ultimate purpose is to address whether common law has a sufficient framework in place to process the historical land claims of indigenous people. In addition, common law policy on the issue is compared and contrasted with international policies on intertemporal law and extinguishment.

   Is land title registration the answer to insecure and uncertain property rights in sub-Saharan Africa, Abdulai, R. T. (2006). RICS Research paper series, 6(6), 1-27.This study asks if land title registration can help address the chaotic real estate market in sub-Saharan Africa by giving landowners security and certainty in their claim to their property.


Land tenure and property rights: Theory and implications for development policy, Feder, G., & Feeny, D. (1991). The World Bank Economic Review, 5(1), 135-153.  In this piece, the writers explore the impact of a title registry system on national economic development and resource allocation. Title registry’s promote growth and investment by decreasing uncertainty in the real estate market. A model is included in the study that demonstrates the effect of secure land rights on real estate prices, agricultural output, and borrowing. The authors use data from Thailand to support several of the article’s claims.

   Property as rhetoric: land ownership and private law in pre-Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, Skyner, L. (2003). Europe-Asia Studies, 55(6), 889-905.

   Foreclosures and the Failure of the American Land Title Recording System, Marsh, T. (2011). Colum. L. Rev. Sidebar, 111, 19.

Title systems and land values, Miceli, T. J., Munneke, H. J., Sirmans, C. F., & Turnbull, G. K. (2002). The Journal of Law and Economics, 45(2), 565-582. This study asks questions about the differences between two different title registry systems, Torrens and the recording title system. The writers examine each system’s impact on property values and conclude that the Torrens system increases property values. Assuming all other factors are equal, the Torrens method reflects higher property values relative to the recording system, making it a better option for homeowners.


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