DEAR BOB: Before I was married about five years ago, I bought my house in my maiden name. After we got married, my husband moved into my house. We never changed the title to add his name. Since marriage, I have been using his last name. When I sell the house, do I need a court order because I took title in my previous name? –Suzanna R.

DEAR SUZANNA: No. Thousands of property owners took title in one name but for various reasons, usually marriage, they changed their legal names before selling that property.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

When you sell your house, you will be asked to sign the deed using your current name with the notation “who took title as” and then your maiden name.

For example, suppose you took title as Suzanna Smith but your name is now Suzanna Rogers. You would sign the deed in front of a notary public, so your signature can be notarized, as Suzanna Rogers, who took title as Suzanna Smith. It’s that easy. For more details, ask a local title officer.


DEAR BOB: We plan to sell our free-and-clear house in early 2007. About four years ago, we made the final payment on our mortgage. But neither my husband nor I recall receiving any papers from the mortgage company proving we paid off the loan. The company has gone out of business. How can we check up on this? –Ruth R.

DEAR RUTH: You are very smart to clear up this problem now before you are ready to sell. The first step is to pay a visit to your county or city recorder of deeds office. Explain to the clerk you want to check if your lender recorded either a “mortgage satisfaction” or a “deed of reconveyance.” Most deed clerks are very helpful and will show you how to research the microfiche or computer records for your home. It will be very helpful if you have your home’s county parcel number.

If you can’t find evidence the loan was cleared from the title to your home, your next stop should be the office of the title company that insured your deed when you bought your home. Explain the problem and see if their records show the loan payoff. If not, then you might have to bring a quiet title action if the mortgage lender is out of business.


DEAR BOB: Your recent advice to condo owners about insurance might be misleading to owners or buyers of some condominiums. For example, I own a condominium that is part of a development of freestanding houses. Each owner must provide his/her own homeowner’s insurance. The master policy insures only the common areas and is primarily a liability policy for the association. As property manager of the development, I have to explain this to new owners and even some escrow agents –Mike B.

DEAR MIKE: Thank you for that valuable information. The situation you describe sounds like a development of detached townhouses that need individual homeowner insurance policies.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “The 20 Essential Questions Smart Home Buyers Must Ask to Avoid Overpaying in a Buyer’s Market,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant delivery at Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

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