I spoke with our escrow officer today and she told me about two title issues on the property. Back in 2003, the then owners had a mortgage that was assigned to another company and then reassigned to a second company. Two of the recordings of those assignments were found to be defective. In both cases, the appropriate person in the mortgage company did not sign the documents. (Oklahoma law stipulates that only specific corporate officers are able to officially sign certain documents.) The escrow company has attempted to contact the two companies to get this corrected, but one company is out of business and the other is not responding to requests.
The way to clear the title in cases like this through a Quiet Title Suit. The procedure is fairly straightforward: a lawyer is hired and he publishes a notice in some newspapers and journals asking anyone who has interest in this property to come forward and contact him. If no one responds, the lawyer then goes before a judge and explains what he did and asks that the judge declare the previous mortgage holders interest in the property be voided. Once that happens, the title is clear.
This whole process takes 60 to 90 days, during which time I will not be able to sell the property. This is fine, since I wasn't planning on doing that. I will also not be able to refinance the property using another escrow company. However, if I use the same company, they can get started on it because they would still have the abstract and know the history and where the title clearing process stands. So this means I may have to wait another 2 or 3 months before refinancing, which I can live with. Meanwhile, the escrow company will not distribute my funds to the seller until title has cleared.
This just goes to show no real estate deal is ever the same. There is something unique about each one and, hopefully, you always learn something new.