You might not think that knowing about mineral rights is crucial to your role as a real estate professional, but there are several scenarios in which you’ll want to know who owns the minerals on the listing.

For example, if your clients are looking in an area dotted with oil rigs, if natural gas drilling is common around that area or if the property is near coal mining operations, owners will want to know their mineral rights in case the person claiming mineral ownership wants to remove the minerals from the property in the future.

In most countries, the government owns mineral resources; in the United States, however, ownership of underground minerals was originally granted to landowners. Consequently, there’s an unusual situation in the U.S. where surface rights can be sold separately from mineral rights.

Because the legality of mineral rights can be tricky to understand without a legal degree, you might want to hire an experienced attorney to help you trace the deeds back to the original mineral property rights.

So, if oil is found on a property, who owns the rights to it? Here are some things to understand:

First, know the difference between mineral rights and surface rights. Mineral rights are the rights to use a property for the minerals it harbors, such as oil, gas, gold, silver and any other underground deposits.

Surface rights are the rights to farm or build on the property. When sold together, surface rights and mineral rights are known as “fee simple,” but when they’re sold separately at any point in a property’s history, the rights have been “severed.”

Your client’s mineral rights might depend in part on in which state you reside. Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin require disclosure of severed mineral rights during a property’s sale; Colorado and Florida are also currently considering disclosure location. Other states don’t make it so easy, and some research will need to be done.



Start by finding the deed to the property at the local deed registry. Read through the deed to see if the rights have not been severed; if that’s the case, then they’re fee simple and ownership belongs with the surface rights.

However, if the deed doesn’t show that the mineral rights are owned, you’ll have to go more in-depth. Visit the county clerk’s office with the property’s legal description from the deed, and schedule a time to search the county records (this might cost a fee).

Then, work backward from present day to create a chain of title (a sequential record of documents showing how the mineral rights have exchanged owners over time). The first deed after the mineral rights and land rights have been severed will plainly state that mineral rights are not included.

From there, follow the mineral rights chain of title to its current owner. This step of the procedure might be murky and hard to understand, so it’s in your best interest to hire a mineral rights attorney, if it gets hairy, for the fine print and to make sure that you’re not missing anything.

Knowing about mineral rights can be a big help to potential homebuyers, not to mention a service that can set you apart from other agents.

Tate Handy is the outreach manager for Digital Third Coast. They create and share a lot of great content pieces. Check out the latest collaboration with Rig Source.

Email Tate Handy.

Show Comments Hide Comments
Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription