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Optimal Title Search


  • Baker, Matthew, et al


In the United States, title to land is protected by a system of public records that would-be buyers must consult in order to ensure that they are dealing with the true owner. Search is a costly process, however, especially as one goes back in time and the records deteriorate. This paper uses a sequential search model to determine how far back in time buyers should search. We find that, in general, search of the entire record is not optimal, which implies that optimal search does not establish title with certainty. We test the model using state statutes and search guidelines that limit the required length of title search. Our results show that the search limits vary across states according to the predictions of the model. Copyright 2002 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Baker, Matthew, et al, 2002. "Optimal Title Search," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 139-158, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:31:y:2002:i:1:p:139-58

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Joskow, Paul L, 1988. "Asset Specificity and the Structure of Vertical Relationships: Empirical Evidence," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(1), pages 95-117, Spring.
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    Cited by:

    1. Miceli, Thomas J. & Kieyah, Joseph, 2003. "The economics of land title reform," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 246-256, June.
    2. Benito Arruñada, 2007. "Market and institutional determinants in the regulation of conveyancers," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 23(2), pages 93-116, April.
    3. Miceli, Thomas J, et al, 2002. "Title Systems and Land Values," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(2), pages 565-582, October.
    4. Miceli, Thomas J. & Munneke, Henry J. & Sirmans, C.F. & Turnbull, Geoffrey K., 2011. "A question of title: Property rights and asset values," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(6), pages 499-507.

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