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Contracts and Transfers

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Real estate purchase agreements are governed by contract law. 

These agreements must: 

  • Be in writing.

  • Be binding on the parties. 


Real estate sellers generally employ an abstractor to continue the abstract on the property.  The abstractor searches the public records in the county where the land is located and assembles all relevant information in one document called an abstract.  This document shows all deeds by which this property has been conveyed.  It also shows estates, dissolutions and all other court proceedings which might affect the title to the real estate.  The abstract also shows all mortgages, unpaid taxes, both real estate and income taxes, all judgments against the sellers, government claims, foreclosures, easements, restrictive covenants, city zoning ordinances and other liens which are of record against the real estate.

Real estate buyers employ an attorney to examine the abstract after it has been continued at the seller’s expense.  As a result of the examination of the abstract, the buyer’s attorney prepares a title opinion.  This title opinion shows the current owner of the real estate and any problems with the title which must be corrected before it is marketable.  The buyer should never purchase any real estate until all objections shown in the title opinion prepared by the buyer’s attorney are corrected.

In all states except Iowa, the buyer may purchase title insurance.  This is an insurance policy purchased by the buyer which guarantees that the title to the real estate is good.  Iowa law prohibits the sale of regular commercial title insurance in the state.  There is a state agency called Iowa Title Guaranty which serves basically the same purpose.  A financial institution making a loan on the real estate may sometimes require the buyer to purchase an Iowa Title Guaranty policy.  This is most common when the lending financial institution is going to sell the mortgage on the secondary market to a company located outside of Iowa.  

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