A title search is an important part of buying property. Performing one will tell you whether the seller has legal right to sell the property and whether there are any liens or other encumbrances on it that could prevent the buyer from taking full possession of it. In Puerto Rico, these records are kept at local registry offices. It is not necessary to physically visit the island to perform a title search. Although records are not directly accessible to the public online, it is possible to perform a title search online through a third party.
Online Search Services
Obtain the property details from the seller, including the address, name of owner and the property's identification number, if it has one.
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Provide the information from the seller to an online title search service. Not all U.S. title search services will search in Puerto Rico, but some, like Fizber and Pro Title USA, do offer a Puerto Rico search option. Both have forms on their websites where you can enter in the address and details of the property you are interested in.
Pay the search fee using a major credit card. As of September 2010, fees for a full title search were $149.95 with both Fizber and Pro Title. Fees for a current-owner search were lower, at $95.95 with either provider, but this search will not provide documentation of any liens that previous owners might have accrued on the property.
Check the document you receive carefully for completeness. You will be emailed a PDF of the relevant documentation. Ensure it matches the address and details you provided.
Using a Lawyer
Contact a real-estate lawyer in Puerto Rico to perform a title search for you. A list of real-estate lawyers in Puerto Rico is available, broken down by city, at the Lawyers website. Most are reachable by email. You will find the most lawyers in San Juan, the capital.
Negotiate a fee. This may vary widely from firm to firm.
Provide your property details to the firm you have chosen. They will provide you with the title search report in an email response.
If you are uncomfortable using an online service, contacting a lawyer directly is common, but will likely be more expensive. If you happen to have the resources to travel to Puerto Rico in person, these searches can be done for a small fee at the local property registry. Some command of Spanish will be necessary.
Although possible, skipping the title search would be very unwise. The property may have a lien on it, meaning that it is pledged as collateral against the debt of a previous owner. Since the lien is on the property, not the person, it could transfer to a buyer.