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Grantor vs grantee: What’s the difference?

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One of the most overwhelming parts of buying and selling a home is the terminology. A lot of technical terms with highly specific meanings get thrown around throughout the transaction that don’t come up in common parlance, or even other financial dealings.

One of the most important pairs of terms that you’ll come across is grantor and grantee. It’s essentially legalese, the official language in purchase agreements to describe, basically, the home seller and the home buyer. But it will be ever-present in the contract and discussion with the real estate attorneys and other real estate pros involved in the sale and purchase of a home. So you will want to understand the basics of what each term means, especially the one that applies to you.

What is a grantor?

A grantor is one side of the transaction, the party who is conveying the sale of an asset to someone else. In a real estate context, the grantor is the person who is selling a piece of property. It could be a homeowner, a bank, a landlord or any other person who possesses land or real estate that they wish to unload.

What is a grantee?

The grantee is the other side of the transaction — the party acquiring the asset. In the case of a real estate transaction, it is the person buying or renting land or property. This could be a homebuyer, a tenant or anyone else who is taking ownership/possession of a piece of land or property, like a house.

Grantors, grantees and real estate deeds

The grantor and grantee are in relationship with one another. Basically, the grantor is selling or leasing a piece of property to the grantee, who is paying to purchase or use it. These relationships are dictated by different types of contracts, called deeds, that define the exact terms of the transfer.

Warranty deed

General

A general warranty deed is a legal document that dictates the transfer of a property from the grantor to the grantee. It binds the seller or grantor by requiring them to provide assurances that there are no issues with the property title or the property itself. It offers the most protections to the grantee, including requiring the grantor to pay the legal costs if any issues were to arise — including claims that go back to a period before the current grantor’s ownership (under a different owner, in other words).

Special

A special warranty deed is like a general warranty deed, but it provides some specific, albeit limited, protections to the grantee or buyer. Under a special warranty deed, the grantor is required to guarantee that their property has no encumbrances on it — that is, there is no risk of creditors filing a lien on the home that could hinder the transfer. The grantor must transfer ownership of the property directly, and must ensure that any mortgage is (or will be) fully paid off. However, the special warranty deed only applies to the period of time that the seller owned the property and does not dictate any encumbrances that may have come before they took ownership of the property.

Grant deed

A grant deed is also known as a limited warranty deed. It is very similar to a special warranty deed (and sometimes goes by that term too): It requires that the seller guarantee the property title is free and clean, but it does not protect the grantee from any claims made on the property prior to the grantor’s ownership.

Quitclaim deed

Like a grant deed, a quitclaim deed transfers ownership of the property from the grantor to the grantee. But it doesn’t have the same type of protection because it does not guarantee that the grantor actually holds the property title or that the title is clear. If it turns out the grantor sold the property with issues on the title, there is no protection for the grantee.

Quitclaim deeds only apply in specific situations, like a transfer between family members or a transfer to a trust. In a transfer between parties that don’t have an existing relationship — an arm’s length transaction — the quitclaim deed likely does not provide enough protection.

Deed in lieu of foreclosure

Foreclosure is a situation that most homeowners would like to avoid, even when hard times hit. A deed in lieu of foreclosure allows for the possibility of avoiding forced seizure of one’s property. This agreement requires the grantee to voluntarily hand over ownership of their property to the mortgage lender in case of missed payments. In doing so, the grantee is released from their mortgage debt. Note that it doesn’t stop the loss of the home: Instead it’s a tool for avoiding the foreclosure process, which can adversely affect your credit score and make it harder to get a home in the future. It also avoids a lengthy legal process for the grantor.

Special purpose deed

A special purpose deed is used when the person signing the deed is not serving as the grantor themselves, but rather simply acting in an official capacity on someone else’s behalf. This may be an estate executor, a power of attorney, or other estate administrator. This means the grantor is not liable if there is any claim against the property.

Interspousal deed

An interspousal transfer deed  allows for the transfer of ownership of a property to one party of a marriage. It is often used in divorce cases to transfer the deed to one person, particularly when the property was previously owned by both people or the other party. Once transferred, it is common for the grantee to refinance as the sole owner or to sell the property.

Final word on grantors and grantees

Grantors and grantees are on the opposite end of a transfer of title, with grantors serving as the sellers or lessors and grantees acting as the buyers or leasees. Most deeds provide some form of protection to both parties, in terms of ownership of and responsibility for the property, and claims and liens against it.

Even with deeds that afford a fair amount of protection for them (like the general warranty), grantees might want to get title insurance to provide additional coverage for their liabilities, especially during the home buying process; many mortgage lenders insist on it, in fact.

Written by
AJ Dellinger
Contributing writer
AJ Dellinger is a contributing writer for Bankrate. AJ writes about auto loans and real estate.
Edited by
Senior homeownership editor