The question running through many first time homebuyers minds when they get to escrow and title is, “I can’t just own my home? I have to tell them HOW I will own it? What does that even mean?!?”

Time for a crash course in methods of holding title. When you own a house, there are many ways to own it, or, in other words, many ways to have the title in your name. If only it was as simple as owning an iPad or a puppy.

It is important to declare how title is held because a lot is at stake. One thing a title declaration does is make a pathway for what happens to ownership if something like a death or divorce happens. Holding title is a very complicated issue, so remember that this is a just a brief overview.

If a single person owns a home all alone, it is simple. Sort of. That is known as Tenancy in the Severalty. It is odd to think that one person leads to “severalty,” which sounds like several, but legally severalty means separate and distinct. And, of course you are an owner and not a tenant, but Tenancy in the Severalty is the legal term what we use.

A married couple usually owns their home as a Tenancy in the Entirety. OK, again they aren’t tenants, but lets move on the next big word. Entirety here means unity and totality. This requires both spouses to agree to a sale, so that one cannot sell their half without the other. It also provides some protections from creditors. When it comes to survivorship, the home will automatically become the sole property of the surviving spouse, aka Tenancy in the Severalty. If each spouse wants to leave their interest in the home to someone else, they should consider holding title as Tenancy in Common.

So, what is a Tenancy in Common, then? Again, not tenants the way we normally think of tenants. When a property is held as a Tenancy in Common, there can be multiple owners with different interests. For instance, four people could own a property, with one person owning 40% and the other three owning 20% each. Each person can sell or will their own interest as they please. TICs are tough to market and sell, so you don’t see them to often.

Do you also want to know about Joint Tenancy? Forget about it! Joint Tenancy is not a legal manner to hold title in Oregon at this time.

This is a very complicated topic, and I often refer people to their own lawyer or at least the title company for guidance in choosing the right form of title. Choosing title is just one of the many many big decisions a homebuyer has to make on the road to getting those keys in hamd. If you have questions about holding title, please let me know. I am always happy to help.