LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Darl C. Gleed | Jul 3, 2010

Preparation and Recording of Deeds in Hawaii

Many individuals and attorneys outside of Hawaii become frustrated and confused when dealing with transfers of Hawaii real property. This is because Hawaii real property descriptions and recording requirements are like no other state's documents and systems. Hawaii real properties, their boundaries and descriptions derive from or have been affected by the ancient Hawaiian system of land tenure, later land commission awards, and "The Great Mahele" land division among the crown (i.e., King), landlords, and government. Add to this a history of long-term leasehold property ownership and two separate recording systems - both of which are at the state level only - and one can see why confusion arises when someone from Kentucky, for instance, finds that we do not have townships, sections, quarters, or other typical property divisions, and there are no county recorders.

If you want to have a deed prepared for a Hawaii property, your best bet is to contact an attorney that does real estate transfers. Many attorneys do this. You may elect instead to contact one of the local title and escrow companies; however, realize that the title company will simply farm the deed out to a private attorney anyway, and pass the expense on to you.

The attorney will typically want a copy of the prior deed, and may encourage you to have a title report done for the property. Of course, the attorney will want the transferees' information such as names, addresses, marital status, etc. The key is that the attorney has a clear understanding of the current status of title (i.e., the ownership and tenancy), along with a complete property description, including any exclusions for irregularities, covenants, or other property conditions affecting the property. The attorney will take the information and include certain clauses which are typical to Hawaii deeds, to indicate tracing information so title can be traced back to prior deeds for title insurance and other purposes.

You may find that fee to have an attorney prepare a deed will equate loosely to 1/2 hour of an attorney's hourly rate, although the fee will typically be expressed as a flat-fee. At this writing, a typical deed for a simple transfer of property is likely in the $150-$200 range. Recording fees are currently $31 for property recorded in the Bureau of Conveyances system. If the property in question was at some time recorded in the Land Court system, then recording will be $51. Note that in Land Court, additional petitions and filing fees may also apply based upon the circumstances of the transfer. If a title search is requested, this fee will be based upon the title company's estimate of the difficulty of the search, and may range from the more typical $300 range to several thousands of dollars for properties with complications.

There is no "Statutory Warranty Deed" in Hawaii. The typical deed names are "Warranty Deed" (which is used in transfers typical to house lots, fee lands, etc. and which are designed to ensure that warranties of title are being passed on to the buyer), "Quitclaim Deed", "Apartment Deed" (which may include warranties of title), and "Condominium Deed" (also may include warranties of title). One may see also conveyance documents with different titles, such as "Personal Representative's Deed", "Limited Warranty Deed", "Condominium Conveyancing Document", "Assignment of Lease", and "Assignment of Lessor's Interest In Property", "Interval Warranty Deed" (for timeshares) and a few other permutations.

Additional resources provided by the author

Title Guaranty Hawaii: http://www.tghawaii.com/

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