Adulting: Real Estate + Home Buying in Iowa

This article is sponsored by The Law Shop by Skogerson McGinn LLC

This editorial series, Adulting, is brought to you by The Law Shop by Skogerson McGinn LLC and Des Moines Mom. The Law Shop provides 100 percent customized client services for families in central Iowa. All 5 original articles from the Adulting series can be found here.

real estate home buyingIowa is unique when it comes to real estate. 

According to, an abstract of title is a written “record of the title history of a property…, including transfers, liens, and legal actions that are connected to the property.”

An abstract is actually pretty cool. It is the history book for your property, often dating back to the original land grant from the U.S. government to the land’s first private owner. A property’s abstract of title is an essential tool for real estate purchasers to ensure clear title and to authenticate ownership.

Iowa is the only state in the country where a lawyer still reviews an abstract of title both before and after closing in most residential real estate transactions.

This helps protect buyers, sellers, and lenders and ensures property titles are clean, which in turn means avoiding potential legal claims or unpaid liens popping up unexpectedly later. Iowa’s commitment to maintaining its attorney abstract examination system is why Iowa now has the cleanest land titles in the country.

Many local and out-of-state mortgage lenders will require title insurance when you purchase a new home, which describes as “a form of indemnity insurance that protects lenders and homebuyers from financial loss sustained from defects in a title to a property.” But did you know that Iowa is the only state in the U.S. where title insurance is actually illegal?

Instead we have Iowa Title Guaranty, a division of the Iowa Finance Authority “created by the Iowa Legislature to provide low-cost title coverage for owners and lenders that protects the integrity of Iowa’s unique land-title system.” (

If you are looking to buy a new home or sell an old one, it may be helpful to understand the most common (and simplified here) phases of a typical residential real estate transaction:

  • Listing and Purchase Agreement – Property is listed for sale by the seller or through a licensed realtor. Once buyer and seller have reached agreeable terms, they sign a
    purchase agreement that is then provided to each party’s legal counsel.
  • Initial Abstracting and Preliminary Title Opinion – Seller provides the abstract of title to a licensed abstractor who researches various county and state records to identify
    matters connected to the property and to enter any new information discovered into
    the abstract. The updated abstract is then provided to the buyer’s legal counsel who
    carefully checks for any issues or concerns on behalf of the buyer and the buyer’s
  • Preparation for Closing – Any inspections required by the purchase agreement are
    completed. Any clouds on the property title identified in the buyer’s preliminary title opinion must also be addressed and cleared. The seller’s attorney prepares a deed along
    with other requisite legal documents. A closing agent is chosen and such agent collects
    the documents and financial information needed in preparation for closing. The buyer’s
    lender prepares documents necessary for funding of the new mortgage.
  • Transaction Closing – The closing agent meets with the parties to collect funds and sign the necessary legal documents. The closing agent utilizes the funds collected at closing to satisfy the seller’s mortgage payoff (if any), any outstanding property taxes,
    abstractor and attorney fees, county fees, and finally net proceeds to the seller.
  • Secondary Abstracting and Final Title Opinion – Once the closing is done, the abstract is updated once again and then returned to the buyer’s lawyer for further examination to confirm that all aspects of the transaction were properly executed, title is now vested in the buyer, and the buyer’s lender has a top priority lien on the property. The lawyer then prepares a final title opinion on behalf of the buyer and the buyer’s lender. The transaction is complete.

For more information on residential real estate matters, come check out our story and learn
more about how we can help with yours at

Connect with the Law Shop

Address :: 413 Grant St. Van Meter, IA

Phone :: 515-996-4045

Online ::




On Purpose Legal Network Handle is “AJ Skogerson”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here