What Is a General Warranty Deed?

FT Contributor
A couple signing a general warranty deed while closing on their property.

A general warranty deed is also referred to as a warranty deed or a house deed. It’s an official document that confirms ownership or transfers ownership of a property from one party to another. This deed offers full warranties and guarantees of a property’s title to the new owner. If you’re taking ownership of a property or you’re gifting a property to a friend or family member, you may be responsible for providing a general warranty deed when closing on the property.

On a general warranty deed, the current property owner or seller is referred to as the “grantor” while the new property owner or buyer is called the “grantee.” The general warranty deed is an important document in a property transaction because it’s a guarantee from the grantor to the grantee that the title can be transferred without defects, errors, or issues. When you close on a property as a grantee with a general warranty deed, you have full security and don’t have to worry about title issues.

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Covenant of Further Assistance

With a general warranty deed, the grantor, or current property owner, is legally bound by how the property is conveyed. In most states, these legal bindings are laid out through six specific covenants or warranties, including:

  • Covenant of right to convey: Property ownership has not been promised to any other party.
  • Covenant of seisin: The current owner has a legal interest in the property.
  • Covenant against encumbrances: All encumbrances have been disclosed to the new owner.
  • Covenant of quiet enjoyment: The new owner or any owner of the property thereafter will be able to enjoy the property without being disrupted by a party claiming to have ownership rights.
  • Covenant of warranty: The current owner will protect the new owner in case someone does attempt to claim ownership of the property.
  • Covenant of further assurances: The grantor will do whatever is necessary to fix any problems with the title, if any occur.

Quitclaim vs. General Warranty Deed

A quitclaim deed is different than a general warranty deed because it provides no actual warranties within the title. With a quitclaim deed, the grantee takes on the risk of title defects or issues and the grantor makes no guarantees about these issues.

In most cases, quitclaim deeds are only used to correct misspellings in owners’ names or when a property is gifted between friends and family members. However, it’s important to note that with a quitclaim deed, the grantee takes on the risk that there may be other owners or claimants to the property.

Special Warranty vs. General Warranty Deed

A special warranty deed is also sometimes called a limited warranty deed, grant deed, covenant deed, or statutory warranty deed. While similar to a general warranty deed, a special warranty deed also has its differences. With a special warranty deed, the grantor only promises that there are no title defects or issues within the timeframe of his or her ownership. No promises are made about the title history from before the grantor owned the property.

A special warranty deed’s only promises is that the current owner can provide the title of the property and that it was not encumbered at any time during ownership. Therefore, there is still some risk taken on by the buyer or grantee with a special warranty deed. These types of deeds are usually used more for commercial transactions since investors may not know or want to deal with the history of a property’s title during these transactions.

Common Uses of General Warranty Deeds

The most common use of a general warranty deed is during the sale of a property. The grantor takes on all risk to ensure the grantee feels comfortable purchasing the property and will have all rights to the property after closing.

If you’re buying a home, at closing, you should be provided with a general warranty deed that names you as the grantee and the previous owner as the grantor. If any party attempts to claim ownership of the property, this general warranty deed protects you as the sole property owner. It’s the grantor’s responsibility to resolve these issues for you.

Outside of the sale of a property, general warranty deeds are rarely used. When a property is given to an heir through a will or when a friend or family member gifts a property to another party, general warranty deeds are usually avoided. The grantor doesn’t want to take on the risk of guaranteeing a full warranty of title. Since the grantor isn’t making money off the transaction, he or she may not feel comfortable being responsible for title issues that may arise.

How Does a General Warranty Deed Work?

To be a legally binding document, a general warranty deed must include specific information and meet certain guidelines. These guidelines can vary by state, such as the font size and page format. Therefore, it’s important to understand the regulations a warranty deed must meet in your state before you close on a property.

There are certain pieces of information a general warranty deed must include that are the same in every state, such as:

  • A legal description of the property.
  • An indication of the consideration (or money) transferred during the transaction, if any.
  • Notarized signatures of the grantor and grantee.
  • A description of how the grantees will hold the title, if there is more than one grantee.

When you close on a house, there are many financial and real estate-related terms you’ll need to know. Understanding a general warranty deed and the importance of this legally binding document can help ensure you have a smooth closing and know your responsibilities as the property owner.

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