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What is a Quitclaim Deed?

Buying a home or a piece of land is usually a monumental purchase. When it's your first time buying your own real estate, it can be a personal milestone. But there are many complex parts of the home-buying process, and even experienced property buyers may get lost in the weeds.

When you purchase real estate, you usually receive a deed, a document transfer that indicates you're the new owner. But not all property deeds are created equal. There are different categories of deeds that can dictate what you actually own and what you're able to do with it. It's important to know what kind of deed you're getting before you commit to making a big property purchase.

What is a Quitclaim Deed?

When most people think of getting a deed to their house, they imagine a warranty deed, which guarantees that the seller has all the rights to sell that property to the buyer. But quitclaim deeds don't offer the same promises.

A seller who provides a quitclaim deed to a home or piece of land is not saying that they definitely have all the legal rights to the property they're conveying; they're saying that they will transfer all the rights that they do have. This means a seller may be in possession of a home, live in it, sell it, but may not have the correct legal claim to that property.

Why Use a Quitclaim Deed?

Because of the quitclaim deed's nature, they aren't as common as warranty deeds, but quitclaim deeds still have their purpose.

For one thing, quitclaim deeds are usually cheaper to transfer, require less time to transfer, and require less red-tape than a warranty deed. They're also a good way to protect a seller who likely has full legal title to the land they're selling, but were never able to fully verify the title transfers of the property from the beginning. A title search is an important part of the deed transfer process to verify who has full legal rights to the title of the property.

A few examples of when a quitclaim deed may be especially appropriate include:

  • Divorce: one spouse can quickly transfer their share of the title over to the other
  • Marriage: for a spouse who previously owned the property alone to add their new spouse to the deed
  • Gifts: to keep the costs of the transfer down for both the giver and the receiver, a quit claim deed may make sense
  • Transfer: when you want to take property you personally own and legally transfer it to another legal entity you have
  • Fixing errors: when you need to fix errors on the existing title

What Goes In a Quitclaim Deed?

Quitclaim deeds require less information than a warranty deed. Usually a quitclaim just needs, at a minimum, the names of the buyer and seller, a legal description of the property, the price paid for the property, the seller's signature, and a notary's signature. These requirements may vary by jurisdiction, however.