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Title Search vs Lien Search: How Are They Different?

March 6, 2024 | Aliza Aviles

When purchasing a home, you want to be as knowledgeable about the property as you can. Buying a property is a huge investment, and it’s important to understand the history of the property and be aware of any other information associated with it. The best way to do so is with a property search, and there are two main forms of this: a title search and a lien search. If you’re not familiar with either, you’re probably wondering, “Which one is the best choice?” or “what’s the difference between the two?” Let’s explore these questions.


Let’s start with title searches. A title search is a search typically performed by a title company or real estate attorney and consists of the property’s public records, detailing the current status on things such as deeds, mortgages, liens, foreclosures, and tax assessments. More specifically, you’ll receive information regarding:


  • Outstanding mortgages
  • Outstanding liens
  • Outstanding taxes
  • The current legal status and ownership of the property


It also includes information about homeowner’s associations dues, unpaid utility bills, and judgements against the previous owner. Title searches cover a lot of aspects of the property in question.

This information is pertinent to ensure the property is or isn’t in good standing before you purchase. In the state of Florida, these debts follow the property, which means the buyer will inherit them and, well, this can get quite messy if you’re unaware of them.



So, if that’s a title search, what makes a municipal lien search different? A municipal lien search covers things that you won’t find on a title search, which would be unrecorded debts. In the state of Florida, municipalities are not required by law to report on liens or debts associated with a property, and the debts do not follow the previous owner, which can greatly affect a buyer. A lien refers to the right to keep possession of someone else’s property until the debt owed is paid in full. Here are a few different things that can be issued as a lien:


  • Property taxes
  • Special Assessments
  • Mechanic’s lien (e.g. construction work)
  • Code enforcement violations
  • Building violations
  • Open or expired permits
  • Utilities (e.g. water, sewer, solid waste, and other services)
  • Any other county debts


Municipal lien searches can cost nothing, but more than likely they will come with their own set of fees, too, depending on the municipality. These fees are called hard costs, and they’re accrued when a municipality charges to retrieve records. The fees can range from $25 to over $100.

While this search is not required, it’s a great addition to a title search. There can be so much missed with just a title search.


So, title search or municipal lien search? Well, why not both! It would be in any owner’s best interest to have both performed to make sure they have all bases covered before committing. Curious about what a municipal lien search looks like? Request a sample report and see how we can help give you full transparency on your future property.