Often when individuals purchase real estate, their understanding of the transaction is that the Seller will convey the real estate by executing and recording a deed. However, there are actually various types of deeds, each with their own set of warranties or guarantees regarding the title being conveyed. Because of the differences between the various types of deeds, it is important to understand which type of deed is being used to convey the real estate in your transaction. Three of the most common types of deeds are the following: General Warranty Deed, Special Warranty Deed, and the Quitclaim Deed

The most commonly used deed is the General Warranty Deed. This type of deed provides the Buyer with the most protection by the Seller. Under a General Warranty Deed, the Seller is warranting or guaranteeing that they have lawful title to the property, the right to convey the property, and that title is clear aside from standard exceptions, such as municipal and zoning ordinances, recorded utility and municipal services easements, building restrictions and covenants, and taxes levied in the year of closing. Since the Seller is warranting that there are no issues with the title, even dating back to prior property owners, it offers the best protection to the Buyer. If the Seller conveyed the real estate to you using a General Warranty Deed and later a defect in title is discovered, the Buyers are able to sue the Seller, as they are legally responsible for the breach of the warranty.

Another type of deed used is the Special Warranty Deed. This type of deed is similar to the General Warranty Deed, except the main difference is that it limits the timeframe of the warranties that the Seller is providing. With a General Warranty Deed the Seller is warranting there are no defects of title all the way back to previous owners of the property. However, with the Special Warranty Deed the Seller is only warranting that no title defects have occurred during their time as owners of the property. Thus, the Sellers are not warranting or guaranteeing against any defects in title that existed before they became owners of the property.

Lastly, the Quitclaim Deed is another commonly used deed. This type of deed affords the least amount of protection to the Buyer.  With a Quitclaim Deed the Seller is not warranting or guaranteeing any ownership rights in the property. Instead, the Seller is simply conveying any title or rights that they have in the property. Pursuant to the statutes, a Quitclaim deed will pass all of the interest the Seller can lawfully convey, but does not warrant or imply the existence, quantity, or quality of such interest in the property. Therefore, if a title defect is discovered after the deed has been signed and recorded, the Buyer has no recourse against the Seller.

These were just three of the types of deeds that are utilized in real estate transactions in Wisconsin. As a result of the varying levels of warranties and guarantees provided by each type of deed, it can be helpful to seek the advice of a real estate attorney before purchasing or selling a property. A real estate attorney will be able to explain the differences between the types of deeds used for the conveyance, if a particular deed type is more favorable in certain transactions, as well as what your legal recourse or responsibility is based on the type of deed used. If you have any questions about types of deeds and what type of deed to use in certain transactions, do not hesitate to reach out to one of our experienced real estate attorneys.