Whether buying or selling a home in North Carolina, determining if there is a lien on the property is crucial. A lien is an unpaid debt that is associated with a property title and it can cause quite a few problems to new or existing owners. Realtor.com explains how to search for a lien, and what you can do if you discover one during your search.
Liens can be assessed against a property for all sorts of reasons. For instance, if the former owners failed to pay property taxes for the home, a tax lien could pose an issue. There are also judgment liens that may be assessed. These involve many different types of unpaid debt, such as outstanding credit card payments or money owed for child or spousal support. New construction can also be linked to a lien. This often occurs when contractors have not been paid for work that was performed.
While one would assume that a new or existing homeowner would be made aware of any liens, this is not always the case. That's why performing a title search is so important. You can hire a company to perform a search on your behalf, but you will be assessed a fee for services rendered. You can also perform a search on your own using county resources like the Clerk of Court or Register of Deeds. While title searches are usually free, you may need to pay to have the report issued.
If you discover a lien, there are a few steps you can take. If you're buying a home, you can ask the seller to provide funds to cover the amount of debt. If this is not possible and you choose to buy the property anyway, the debt will then be your responsibility. For example, if you choose to sell the home in the future a third party may be able to claim a portion of it. That's why most people opt to walk away from a real estate transaction when liens are discovered.