A deed is a written document that transfers legal ownership of property from one entity to another.  In the case of real estate, a deed is used to transfer the certificate of title. 


When a home is purchased, a deed transfers ownership to the buyer and lending institution if a mortgage is used to finance the purchase.  When a mortgage is paid in full, a deed transfers complete ownership from the lending institution to the borrower.

A deed can take several specialized forms:

  • Sheriff's Deed:  given to a property owner as a result of a sheriff's sale.
  • Master Deed:  used to describe land associated with condominium complexes and other forms of shared or common property.
  • Tax Deed:  given to a purchaser of a tax lien.

The Recorder of Deeds is a government office responsible for maintaining public records such as real estate transactions.  In the United States, the Recorder of Deeds is typically a county official or the equivalent.

Related Terms

title search, certificate of title, lien, closing