I am looking at a piece of land that is being sold for 25k. As I understand it, I need to do a title search before any transaction is done. I've already looked at the tax assessors website and seen that the taxes appear to be up to date and that the information about the owner seems to be in order. Do I still need to do a title search? If so can someone recommend a good place to get a title search performed? I'm also looking for some advice on title insurance and lawyers. As I understand it, title insurance is something that is procured at closing. As for lawyers, so I really need a lawyer for a transaction of this scale? or is that overkill. I'm jus trying to get a handle on what is required and what is optional.
Title search: Start by walking into the town offices and asking to see their records for that plot. This will show who owned it when, often how much it was purchased for, and should include most restrictive covenants or rights of way that could limit how the property can be used. (Building codes and zoning will of course impose other restrictions.) That won't necessarily prove that every possible defect in the title was addressed, but if the records are continuous back to or past the date of constriction you are probably fine. A more professional search will probably be done by your lender.
Title insurance: Ask your lawyer if it's worthwhile given the laws in your area. Remember that it's so cheap because they rarely need to pay out significant amounts.
Remember to ask the seller whether the title insurance they purchased (if any) is transferrable. If so, you almost certainly don't need to purchase more.
Finally: This is going to be one of the smallest numbers at the closing. If you do buy it unnecessarily, the resulting "confusion tax" is not the end of the world.
You do not need a lawyer, you don't need a title search, and you don't need a lawyer; if you don't have a loan. All the risk is being borne by you. If there is an issue with past ownership, or a misunderstanding on the easement, or that the sales contract didn't convey everything you thought, or that the post sales paperwork wasn't filed correctly; any loss will be limited to your time, energy, and money.
Of course if there is a loan the lender will insist on protecting their investment. They may require a title search, title insurance, and they may ask to review the contract. They will also be happy to know that all the proper paperwork is filed correctly.
If the purpose of the land is for your personal use you might never need to get lawyers and insurance involved. But if the purpose of the purchase is to build a structure you might need to get them involved in the future. Even if you don't need a loan for that future construction do you want to risk all that money on a paperwork snafu?