What is a county clerk and recorder?
Almost every adult will, at some point, have used the services of their local county clerk. Although, not everyone will be aware of this fact. Nor will we all fully understand our clerk’s role within the community. As a result, you may assume that this branch of local government is boring or of no concern to you.
However, you’re going to want to reconsider that outlook. Why? Have you ever registered for a marriage license, voted in local elections, or gotten a driver’s license? Well, your county clerk is playing a vital role behind the scenes to make it possible.
In the Role of the County Clerk, Jacqueline J. Byers’ research defines “County clerks come in all forms and levels of authority.” “Some are elected, some are appointed”, writes Byers. “Some are clerks to the governing board only, and others have responsibilities for carrying out many services for the citizens of the county.”
Interestingly, clerks are one of the oldest government officials, and their origins date back to Ancient Greece. Once American colonies started to put together their local governing bodies, the recorder was one of the first positions established. Byers’ research reveals that early on, the clerk’s role “was to keep vital records of births, marriages, and deaths for the church”. In addition, they “maintained records of all of the governmental appointments,” “deeds, the meetings, and the elections of town officials.”
What does a county clerk do?
As defined by ballotpedia.org, a “Clerk of Court and Recorder is an elected position in the state of Colorado according to the state’s constitution.” The clerk works closely with the secretary of state and “follows the rules and orders the secretary of state issues.” In Denver, CO, the county clerk serves the public and is responsible for the following:
- Maintaining records of local and regional elections
- Registering voters
- Overseeing local elections (When it comes to elections, Byers reveals that clerks are “responsible for preparing ballots, procuring and maintaining voting machines and recruiting and training poll workers and the conduct of all elections.”
- Maintaining voting records
- Maintaining records of marriages
- Granting marriage licenses
- Maintaining records of land ownership, mortgages, real estate, public land, deeds, foreclosures, and titles
- Assisting the public seeking to obtain records
- Providing education to the public on upcoming elections
- Issues motor vehicle titles, tags, and plates
What does a County Clerk have to do with buying a home?
When you purchase a home, the County Clerk will help with filing your deed so it becomes public record. This is an important step of the home buying process because your lender will not proceed with finalizing the sale until the Clerk has received the correct paperwork and fees.
Recording fees tend to average around $125. But, themortgagereports.com says that these fees “can range from as low as zero in Alaska to percentages of the home price that can push costs into the thousands. In addition, some states combine real estate transfer taxes with recording fees, and others separate the charges.”
Filing a deed
The deed to your home is a written legal document indicating the transfer of the original property owner to you, the new property owner.
These records — kept by your county’s recording office — are vital to verify the history of ownership, prevent fraud, and keep the public informed. For example, some scammers list a place or property for sale even if they do not have a genuine claim to the property. Having a public record of the chain of ownership is a way for you to confirm that the individual “selling” the property is the actual owner.
Deeds are a useful tool for those tracking down family genealogy. These records can be vital in verifying if someone in your family tree may have lived in a particular property in the past. Even if the owner loses or misplaces the physical deed, the county can back up the claim of ownership by what they show in their records. One downside to public records is that if you have a lien on your property, this will also show up in the documents accessible by everyone.
Buying and selling a home
Regardless, a real estate deed is a part of every transaction involving a home or piece of property. A deed is a legally binding document that transfers property ownership from the seller to the buyer. The deed is finalized when the seller (owner/grantor) signs over the deed of ownership to the buyer. This must be recorded with the county clerk’s office for the transferral of ownership to be legally binding.
Knowledge is power
Now you know what the role of your county clerk and recorder is in your community. You can vote the next clerk into your community with confidence. In the past, you’ve maybe disinterestedly circled in the dot next to a name you didn’t know for a role you didn’t understand. But now, you understand why their role is vital and what traits you want to see in your future representative.
Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to end there. From mortgage basics to more complex functions of the real estate world, check out our learning page. You’ll learn more about what questions you should ask when you start your buying or selling journey. Also, check out our article, Understanding Each Step of the Mortgage Loan Process to learn more.