What is a preliminary title report? Why does it matter?

What is a Preliminary Title Report?The preliminary title report is provided by the title insurance company not long after escrow is opened.  In Santa Clara County, unlike many parts of California, usually escrow is opened once a listing agreement is signed (not after a buyer is in contract to purchase the home).  That means that the preliminary title report (sometimes called the “pre” or “prelim”) is ready to be viewed by the time the home goes on the market or shortly thereafer.

What is in the preliminary title report?

  1. Information on where escrow is opened (which company) and who the escrow officer is along with their contact info
  2. The form of title insurance anticipated by the report (there may be options available)
  3. Title – who the owners are, if it’s in a trust, an LLC, etc.
  4. Legal description of the property  (assessor’s parcel number, address etc.). If it is is a property held in condo ownership, that will show as well.
  5. Info on any and all liens recorded against the property (mortgages, property taxes, supplemental taxes etc.)
  6. If there are any covenants, conditions and restrictions (CCRs)
  7. If there are any easements (usually there are at least public utility easements)
  8. A plat map of the property
  9. and a few more items….

Why does a prelim matter? (more…)

What Is A Plat Map, And What Can You Learn From It?

A plat map comes with your preliminary title report (provided by your title company with maps from the Santa Clara County tax assessor’s office when you purchase or sell a home in California), tucked away at the back and somewhat mysterious with lots of numbers in small print. It holds quite a bit of helpful information if you know what it is you’re seeing. Today we’ll view a sample of one of these – breaking down the plat map shown as a small thumbnail image on the right to more readable parts so that you can learn how to “read” or understand a plat map.

Quick overview of what’s on a plat map

There’s a wealth of information on the plat map. Take a look and see what you can pick out on your own first.



Plat Map of part of the Cambrian area of San Jose




Where are the easements? Request a color coded easement map from your title company!

Whether buying or selling a Silicon Valley home, you’ll want to read the preliminary title report, CCRs (if any) and related documents carefully.  A question often arises as to where specific easements are located.  The title company which is handling the escrow (and which provided the preliminary title report) can generate a color coded easement map for you if you or your real estate agent requests it.

How is a color coded easment map made? Essentially, someone takes the plat map, found at the back of the preliminary title report, and marks it up where the easements are – generally.  Here’s what one looks like:

Color coded easement map

Although this is not as precise as a survey, seeing the visual is very helpful in understanding what’s being discussed. In the image above, the green area is the “setback” line, meaning the area where you cannot build your house or garage.  Other colors are for different easements, such as for power, water, sewer.  Some areas have slope or drainage easements too.

Related reading:

What is an Easement and Why Should You Care? (Live in Los Gatos blog)

What Is A Plat Map, And What Can You Learn From It? (this blog)