In New York, when ownership of real estate is conveyed from one person or entity to another, the conveyance is accomplished by means of a deed. The deed contains a legal description of the parcel conveyed, identifies the buyer and seller, is signed by the seller and notarized.
Preparing and signing the deed does not complete the transaction, however. In order to fully protect the buyer's interest, the deed must be recorded at the office of the clerk of the county where the land is located. Recording the deed puts everyone on notice of the deed. Even if a person does not go to the County Clerk's office and search the records, if the deed was properly recorded, he or she is deemed to know about it under the doctrine of constructive notice.
It is important to record the deed as soon as possible because the order in which deeds are recorded affects the priority of interests in the property. Once a deed is properly recorded, it gives the owner who records it priority over any subsequent purchaser or mortgagee. If a deed is not properly recorded, New York's recording statute provides that a subsequent purchaser or mortgagee who is unaware of the unrecorded deed and who records their deed first takes priority over the prior unrecorded conveyance.
When buying or selling real estate, it is important to have a properly drafted deed and to record it promptly. By recording the deed as soon as possible, a purchaser can reduce the risk of real estate litigation with third parties claiming an interest in the property.
Source: Findlaw, "Transferring Property," accessed May 1, 2015