FAQ : Cornell Abstract

Frequently Asked Questions

When you purchase real estate in Dickinson County, Iowa, you can be assured that a written record of title transfers is available at Cornell Abstract Company for use in preparing the “history” of that property. That history is referred to as an abstract. We’ve been compiling such information since 1918. Our records are the most complete and accurate of any commercial service in the county.

If you buy a home, a farm, or a tract of land in Dickinson County, Iowa, what you acquire is the seller’s rights and interests subject to any limitation that may affect your ownership.

The key word is “limitations”. In virtually all land transfers, the seller’s title is affected by the rights and interest of others. Examples are the rights of a utility company to construct a power line or bury power limes across the property; rights of adjoining land owners to enforce covenants restricting use of real estate; liens against the property by federal, state or local government; rights of a relative of a previous owner, plus other circumstances.

It is essential that you are aware, before purchase, of what rights the seller may convey. That’s why the abstract is important.

What is abstracting?


Locating and recognizing the significance of many recorded matters, and compiling them into a single chain of title.

Why is the abstract important?

Without knowledge of the history of a property, a buyer may find that the title to the property is not free and clear.

When did written evidence of land transfer first appear?


In Dickinson County, Iowa, there are farmsteads that date back to 1859. A written evidence of land transfer in the united States began to appear as early as 1626, when legislation was passed in the English colony of Virginia requiring that all land sales be recorded within a year of sale.

When I’m told the abstract needs to be brought up to date what does that mean?


It means that a professional abstracter needs to make certain that the abstract is accurate and contains all new information that could affect property title since the date of the last abstract examination.

What is the role of the attorney?

Based on the information in the abstract, and in some instances additional information, and attorney can render an opinion as to the condition of the seller’s title.

Can I do my own abstract?


While the records of transfers, liens, etc., are available at the Dickinson County Courthouse, most lenders and buyers require that the abstract be prepared by a skilled professional abstracter who has adequate records and liability insurance.

Cornell Abstract Company is a member of the Iowa Land Title Association and the American Land Title Association. We subscribe to a strict code of ethics and carry extensive liability insurance.

Cornell Abstract Company has a staff of skilled abstracters, plus the resources of more nearly a century of carefully compiled records. They are updated daily to provide a complete and accurate record of matters affecting titles throughout Dickinson County, Iowa.