Title vs. Deed: What’s the Difference?

If you’re looking to buy a home for the first time, you might be confused by these two words. A title and a deed are quite similar, but also distinct. Here’s what you need to know.

The Title: Right to Ownership

The title is not something you can actually put your hands on. Legally speaking, the word “title” refers to ownership over something. If you hold the title to a piece of real estate, you legally own it and have control over it. 

That being said – the title is not a document. Think of it as a metaphorical right that you obtain once you have signed the deed (see below). Is this confusing? Yes. But that’s the way it’s been for decades.

The Deed: Legal Document

A deed is the document used to legally transfer the title from one party to another. These are the papers that you (and the seller) will sign in order to formally give you the rights over your new home. Without the deed, you have no title. 

In short, the difference between the two is that the title is an idea, while the deed is a document. You can hold the deed in your hands, and will need to sign it to formalize the purchase of your home. However, the title is the conceptual right you have to own said home, after having signed the deed. 

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