Thursday, August 14, 2008

100 Years of Oklahoma Real Estate

“They’re not makin’ any more of it, so get it while you can!” These are the words of so many of our ancestors that it would be ludicrous for me to claim that my great-great-great grandfather said it first. And in the first land run (April 22, 1889) the land we now know as Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Logan, Oklahoma and Payne counties were settled.

The following four land runs (September 22, 1891; April 19, 1892; September 16, 1893; and May 23, 1895) most if not all the remaining lands now known as Oklahoma. In each case settlers would stake their claim and then register their claimed lands with the assessor. The assessor filed the claims as a matter of public record and this public record was the start of what is now known as a land abstract.

The land abstract (hereafter referred to as simply, the abstract) contains a documented record of every transaction (including liens and property divisions) on a specified parcel of property. Many of these documents are inches thick and contain many interesting stories, some of which precede statehood.

Pete Katzdorn General Counsel with Elite Title and Escrow in Edmond chuckles as he relates the contents of one such abstract.

A husband and wife were not only marriage partners but business partners in a farm raising pigs for slaughter. For some unknown reason the wife separated herself from her husband and wanted a divorce which he was in no mood to grant. There must have been several attempts to serve her husband with the divorce papers when she came up with a cunning plan.

She was able to convince her husband that she needed his help for something very important on the farm. He finally agreed to come and help with what he thought was a call to butcher a hog. Instead when he arrived he was served divorce papers. “It just goes to show that some married couples should not be business partners and that our state’s abstracts hold a great deal of history” Stated Mr. Katzdorn.

Katzdorn says recent changes to Oklahoma law allow title preparation in some instances to take place without a complete search of the abstract. Prior to this change, title companies were required in all cases to locate and retrieve abstracts before preparing and insuring title work on a home, or land. But since July 1st of this year Katzdorn says, “Borrowers how have a choice. They can either update an abstract or use a prior owner’s title insurance policy in place of a base abstract as part of their updated title.”

These recent changes in Oklahoma title law have made it possible to streamline title preparation in some instances; however the costs associated with title work have not decreased. “Even though title costs have not decreased” Katzdorn says, “costs for Oklahoma title work are low when compared to the fees allowed in many other states.”

Because private citizens are allowed to maintain possession of their property’s abstract, this search often ends in the admission that the compiled document is not to be found. In this event, it becomes necessary that a new abstract be built requiring many days and fees sometimes amounting to $1,500 or more.

In addition when Katzdorn compares other statistics, he says the land records kept by Oklahoma are more comprehensive than many other states which results in a lower number of law suits.
Abstracts can provide some interesting reading but for the most part they are filled with endless ramblings of legal jargon. For most home and land owners the abstract is best protected when it is kept with one of the many title companies that serve our great state.