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I would not spend money I couldn't afford to lose, without an escrow company doing a title search. It's an easy process, but takes a few days. You and the seller send the money, title, contracts, etc to them. As soon as title clears, plus whatever other contingencies you both agree to, they release the money to the owner. The problem with liens is they can be filed federally or at any individual state. Having a title in hand proves nothing. For that matter, their could be a filed lien in another state from whomever he purchased it from in the first place.

I purchased an aircraft once that had a several thousand dollar fuel lien in another state that they filed about six months after I purchased it. Aviation law may be a bit different, but it was binding, even though they didn't file it before I took title. My contract required the prior owner to clean up any and all liens. He was a good guy who paid up willingly. It was a final fuel bill that his office didn't pay because they no longer owned the plane and thought it was mine.

However, without a contract, I would have had no way to enforce an agreement we didn't make, if he was a jerk about it.
 
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