A check of the title records to ensure that the seller is the legal owner of the property and that there are no liens or other claims outstanding.
In order to make sure the borrower will receive clear title to the property, lenders require a title search. It attempts to uncover any "encumbrances" on the title and makes sure the seller is the actual owner of the property.
Encumbrances include any liens -- legal claims against a property filed by creditors as a means to collect unpaid bills. Liens can also be filed by the Internal Revenue Service for nonpayment of taxes. Any such claims must be paid by the seller -- this often occurs either before or at the closing.