"How Should We Hold Title to the House?"

"How should we hold title to the house?"

couple planning their futureThis question is asked often, and was asked just recently by some first-time buyers who will be closing escrow soon. They are excited about buying their home, but are wise enough to pay attention to the details.

Since I am neither an attorney nor a tax accountant, I gave them a brief run-down of some of the more common choices, and then suggested they get professional advice.

Here in California, some of the more common ways of holding title are:

Tenancy in Common

  • any number of persons, with ownership divided into any number of interests, equal or unequal
  • each co-owner's interest can be conveyed separately, and passes by will to her heirs
  • there is no survivorship right.
Joint Tenancy
  • any number of persons, but ownership interests cannot be divided.
  • on co-owner's death, his interest ends and cannot be willed
  • suvivor owns the property
Community Property
  • only husband and wife, or domestic partners, with equal ownership interests
  • separate interests in the property cannot be conveyed
  • when co-owner dies, 1/2 goes to survivor; rest goes by will or to others
Community Property with Right of Survivorship
  • only husband and wife, or domestic partners
  • ownership interests are equal, and must have been created after certain dates
  • upon death of co-owner, survivor owns the property
Choosing the proper vesting is important since ramifications are great. The tax basis of the property is treated very differently, too, depending on how title is held.

Luckily, if you make a mistake, or when/if your life situation changes, it is a rather simple procedure to change how title is held. But, giving it your attention now, when you buy a home, is important and will give you peace of mind, knowing you've made an informed decision.


--- Come for a visit; Stay for a lifetime!

Lottie Kendall, Realtor®


CA DRE#10215160; 650-465-4547



Peninsula Living Business Page




Comment balloon 5 commentsLottie Kendall • January 22 2011 11:53AM


That is an excellent post and a question I hear all the time.  I usually refer them to the Title Company to discuss..but now I can just bookmark this!

Cindy in Indy

Posted by Cindy Marchant, "Cindy in Indy" , Realtor, Fishers Real Estate (Keller Williams Indy NE 317-290-7775 www.marchantteam.com) over 8 years ago

This is why Bob Stewart challenged us to write answers to the questions we hear all the time. I'll be happy when I have a slew of these posts--it will be so easy to shoot them off to people.

Posted by Lottie Kendall, Helping make your real estate dreams a reality (Compass) over 8 years ago


Choices are a little different in Okahoma.  We are not a community property state.  Most husbands and wives hold title in joint tenancy.   Love the post.


Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) over 8 years ago

Hi Judi -- "Community Property with Rights of Survivorship" is the newest common way to hold title here in California. It  assures that the surviving spouse receives full ownership, yet has a favorable stepped-up tax basis, I believe. Really, that's a question for a tax accountant.

Posted by Lottie Kendall, Helping make your real estate dreams a reality (Compass) over 8 years ago

Great overview, Lottie.  Very simply explained.

Posted by Jane Peters, Los Angeles real estate concierge services (Home Jane Realty) over 8 years ago