What Is a Warranty Deed?

By: Malea Ritz

If you’re in the market for a new home, familiarizing yourself on options to safeguard one of your largest purchases is a great practice. As a means of assurance for lenders and prospective homebuyers alike, a warranty deed is a legal document used in real estate that offers the greatest level of protection.

The deed affirms the owner’s title to the property and that the property is free of any restrictions, such as outstanding mortgages, taxes, or liens. If you’re not familiar with the term, a lien is a right to keep a property in possession until a debt is repaid. 

Types of warranty deeds

There are multiple types of deeds that are designed to help prospective property owners in different scenarios. Although some may share similarities with each other, it’s beneficial to educate yourself on some of their differences so you can determine which deed is appropriate for you.

Here are the most common types of deeds:

  • Warranty deed
  • Special warranty deed
  • Quitclaim deed
  • Bargain and sale deed

Warranty deed vs. special warranty deed

A general warranty deed means that the person granting the deed is responsible for any breaches to the guarantee, despite if the incident occurred prior to owning the property or without the grantor’s knowledge. Due to this reality, homebuyers are often still advised to use title insurance to protect them against potential liens or claims. A title company then executes a title search on the property to ensure that it’s clear of restrictions, or encumbrances, before the ownership is transferred.

As a less extensive coverage option, a special warranty deed only covers two areas:

  • Confirmation that the person granting the deed has the title
  • Validation that the property was not restricted at the time of the sale

The difference here is that the general warranty deed protects against previous infractions, whereas the special warranty deed does not. 

Warranty deed vs. quitclaim deed

Similar to a warranty deed, a quitclaim deed passes ownership of a property but does not guarantee the validity of the claim. A quitclaim deed can put the person or lender receiving the deed at risk of running into conflict with the title. Quitclaim deeds are often used for people who know each other (think: family members).

Warranty deed vs. bargain and sale deed

While the general warranty deed protects homebuyers from conflicts that may arise in the future, the bargain and sale deed does not make that promise. Basically, it guarantees that the grantor has the title and possession of the property, but it may have conflicts. This deed is typically used by local governments and executors in foreclosure sales. 

Warranty deed Deed of trust Quitclaim deed
Definition Deed that guarantees a clear title to a property Deed for a property that is transferred to a trustee which holds it as security for a loan Deed as a means of real estate transfer that makes no promises about owner’s title
Who is this deed for? Prospective homebuyers Lenders Families or people who know each other making changes to a title or transferring property
When do you opt for this deed? For an added layer of protection to ensure the property is free of restrictions 1. Seeking an impartial third party:

  • Holds the property until the debt is paid off
  • Must be ready to sell off the property if the borrower defaults

2. If state law requires it

3. As protection if a borrower defaults on their loan

When transferring property within a family:

  • Adding a spouse’s name to the title after marriage
  • Removing a previous spouse’s name from the title in the event of divorce
  • Parents are transferring property to children
  • Siblings are transferring property to each other

How to obtain a warranty deed

There are a few items you’ll need to obtain a deed, including:

  • Copy of the current deed for the property
  • Property address
  • Names and addresses for the grantor, seller, grantee, and homebuyer
  • Amount of money paid for the property by the grantees or homebuyers
  • Legal description of the property (dimensions, measurements, boundaries, etc.)
  • Survey, if property size has changed
  • County and state where seller will sign the warranty deed

Deeds will be dated and may need to be signed by a notary public, as well as by the buyer. 

A recorder, or the registrar of deeds or clerk of courts, maintains the public records and deeds. When purchasing a home, your title or escrow agent is typically responsible for filing the original deed to record your ownership of the property. This process can take anywhere from two weeks to three months. 

Issues with warranty deeds

Despite everyone’s best efforts, circumstances can arise that prevent the deeds from being recorded properly. Errors, business closings, or lost deeds can all affect this. This could mean problems down the line for homeowners like trouble proving homeownership, clouds on the title, and tax issues.

Frequently asked questions about warranty deeds

Who should I list as the grantor in my warranty deed?

The grantor is the person who currently holds the title of the property.

Who should I list as the grantee in a warranty deed?

The grantee is the person who is receiving the property.

What are encumbrances in a warranty deed?

Encumbrances are claims against a warranty deed by someone who doesn’t own the property. They have the ability to affect a property being transferred. In general, encumbrances consist of mortgages or liens, whether related to property or a personal debt.

What is the title in a warranty deed?

The title is the right to property ownership.

What are my liabilities as a grantor in a warranty deed?

As a grantor, you are liable for claims that occurred against the title for the property, despite if they happened prior or following to your possession of the property title. 

Can I transfer property or rights of survivorship in a warranty deed?

Yes, but you’ll need to identify someone to act as a joint tenant as part of a survivorship deed. Joint tenants are equal owners of the property, although they can sometimes be defined differently as partial owners. The deed will be composed as a warranty or quitclaim deed.

Although a warranty deed has greater protection and guarantees, it can take longer to prepare. Determine which of the options will work best for you depending on your situation. 

Once your deed is prepared, it’s filed at the local courthouse to give enough notice. Upon the passing of one of the owners, the ownership interest is divided evenly among the existing tenants. When there’s one person left on the tenants list after the others pass away, the last person will have complete rights to the property and can transfer ownership to children or anyone else. The other tenants are not permitted to pass the ownership onto their children, as that would violate the survivorship clause.

Does my warranty deed need to be notarized in the same stand the land is located in?

Contact your clerk’s office to be sure, but many states will allow notarizations from other states.

Who pays for the warranty deed?

It depends on your agreement, but either the buyer or seller can pay for the warranty deed. The buyer usually pays for the fees to record the deed.

Where should I send my warranty deed after it has been recorded?

Following the recording of the deed at the county clerk’s office, it can be sent to the grantee. However, anyone can be assigned as the recipient of the recorded deed.

Is a warranty deed the same as title insurance?

Not a substitute to title insurance, a warranty deed does not cover the grantee if the grantor declares bankruptcy or passes away.


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