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Warranty Deed or Quitclaim Deed – what’s the difference and why should you care?

03rd December 2009
By Kelly M. Davis in Real Estate Law
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Every now and then, someone comes to my office needing a "Deed." Usually, they have heard the term Quitclaim deed and specifically ask for that. But, many people (including some attorneys, I'm chagrin to admit), do not understand the difference between a Quitclaim Deed and a Warranty Deed. To say the difference is huge would be an understatement.

In layman's terms, a Quitclaim deed only transfers the person's interest in the property. Meaning, if I have anything, all that I have, I will surrender it to you. It doesn't really promise or guarantee that the person even owns any portion of the property. If they don't own an interest in the property, the Quitclaim Deed is worthless and you have no recourse (in other words, it would not be considered a breach of contract that you could sue under). You got, nada, zip, zilch. It's simply a piece of paper.
A Warranty Deed, on the other hand, makes certain representations about what is being deeded. The language usually says something like the Seller "grants, sells and conveys the property to the Buyer … to have and to hold it … forever, and binds Seller and Seller's heirs to warrant and forever defend the property to the Buyer." As you can see, this type of document warrants to the Buyer that the Seller actually owns the land and has the right to sell it. Such a warranty is called the "warranty of title," and it is expressed in the form of a Warranty Deed.

Now, I'm not saying that we don't use Quitclaim Deeds. Normally, we see those in situations where family members are deeding property to their children. Their children don't doubt that their parents own the property and are not trying to get them to make any express representations about what they do and do not own. However, in arm length transactions, where there is a Buyer and a Seller and the Buyer is paying good money to the Seller, a General or Special Warranty Deed is used to assure the Buyer that the Seller actually owns the property and has the right to sell it.

Now, this might be a piece of perfectly worthless information to you but at some point there may come a time where you either have to understand what someone is trying to sell you or, perhaps if you are lucky, what you were given. While both deeds might sound like they are accomplishing the same thing, it's important to remember that not every deed truly "deeds" you anything.
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About the Author
Occupation: Attorney
Kelly Davis owns a law firm located in Lewisville, Denton County, Texas which is centrally located to the DFW metroplex, including Dallas, Tarrant and Collin Counties. She has been licensed to practice law since 1999, having graduated with her Juris Doctorate degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law. Kelly opened her own business, Kelly M. Davis & Associates, LLC, in 2002. Since then, she has practiced in all areas of civil litigation including business, construction, and commercial litigation. Additionally, her firm handles transactional work such as contracts, corporate entity formation, probate, wills, estate planning and trust.

Over the past five years, Kelly’s firm has primarily concentrated on representing construction related companies – home builders, suppliers, vendors and subcontractors of every trade. With law firms on every corner, most people wonder what makes our law firm different than most in the area. Primarily, it is Kelly’s family background in the building industry. Kelly spent many of hours as a little girl on construction job sites so she is familiar with most of the challenges faced by people in the industry. Also, KMDA’s wide variety of clients in the construction industry provides a readymade expert base for all their clients.

KMDA’s firm philosophy was originally derived from a conversation Kelly had with her dad when she was in law school. Her dad once told her that all attorneys, whether or not they represented the builder or not, automatically thought that the builder was guilty. Isn’t it interesting that this country is built on “innocence until proven guilty”… unless you are a builder? KMDA really wants builders who come to her firm for representation to know that KMDA truly fights for the builder and truly understands some of the specific issues that builders face every day.

In the past few years, KMDA’s practice has greatly expanded to include all types of vendors and subcontractors. While we have always filed a great deal of Mechanic’s liens, unfortunately the economy is in such a state that we file close to 100 liens and lien notices per month. What this means to our client is that we have been able to automate the lien process and have made it much more economical for our clients. For our vendors and subcontractors, KMDA has had great success in collecting their past due accounts and greatly decreasing their receivables.

Surely everyone would agree that if you have a heart problem you go to a cardiologist not just your local clinic doctor. Kelly thinks that construction related issues are the same. If you are going to hire legal counsel, why not hire someone whose practice mainly consists of issues you face every day? If you go to an attorney that does not primarily practice construction litigation, you are more than likely paying for that attorney’s learning curve because a portion of your bill will go towards that attorney learning construction law. Also, along those lines, most attorneys only handle cases in a few counties. KMDA travels where our builders are and where they build and we are used to handling cases all over the State of Texas.
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