In all legal systems with private property, the government provides a mechanism for owners and lenders to make a public record of their rights. In most countries, the gov-ernment restricts access to this public record and allows entries into it only after a public official approves it. By contrast, no government entity in the United States regulates, confirms, or guarantees the typical real estate ownership transfer. How this works is not readily understood even within the United States, where owners and lenders rely on attorneys and other professionals to examine and understand the public record and to record instruments that protect their clients’ property rights. This article describes the laws and legal customs that underlie this self-regulating system, including how they dif-fer fundamentally from land registration in other countries, and the emerging challenges to its reliability.
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