The song “We Built This City”, by Starship, was a massive piece of Rock radio “real estate” when it hit the charts in 1985. Here at True Title, we were curious enough to ask the question ….
What if Starship Sold Its City Built on Rock and Roll?
Several musical properties are hot right now. The prices to build cities on Pop, EDM, Rap, and Country keep going up.
But as tastes and styles change, what about Rock? The band Starship built their city on Rock and Roll in 1985, and though it was a smart investment then, the market has changed, and the value of the property has gone down.
When record sales hit their first iTunes-induced slump in the early 2000s, Starship refinanced using an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). Now that streaming services like Spotify have nearly eliminated record sales altogether, Starship can’t keep up with its payments.
By 2016, GQ had named “We Built This City” as the “the most detested song in human history,” so the band Starship decided to list the property for sale.
Despite the downturn, lots of people love Rock and Roll, and you have a client that wants to buy it! They’re about to sign a contract on the property, and you’ve started to do your due diligence, choosing True Title to complete the property title search.
What Is a Property Title Search?
A property title search involves finding and reviewing all available documents relevant to a property’s history. These documents will show:
- If the seller owns the property and is legally allowed to sell it.
- If there are any restrictions pertaining to the use of the land.
- If there are any liens on the property that must be satisfied at closing.
Here are some questions we would attempt to address.
Was Rock and Roll properly vested?
Just because Starship built a city on Rock and Roll doesn’t mean they had the rights to it when they went to work. We’d make sure the title was in their name before they built the city.
Perhaps they technically owned the rights, but they didn’t have a proper survey done. Regardless, we will check the current survey to make sure their city didn’t infringe on anyone else’s property.
Are there any liens on the title?
When Starship purchased Rock and Roll back in 1985, were there any liens on the property then, and were those debts satisfied?
And has Starship paid all of their debts associated with the property? We’d want to make sure every contractor was paid—including record producer Peter Wolf—as well as all taxes and other bills. These potential liens must be taken care of!
What does the survey of the property reveal?
After a survey is conducted, we’ll make sure there are no encroachments on Rock and Roll. For example, what if:
- Country Music has a raised bed garden that crosses the boundary line?
- Rap built a driveway for its fleet of Escalades that cuts across the edge of Rock and Roll?
- EDM built a playset, and part of it sits on Rock and Roll.
If so, we’ll want to know if Starship signed an easement, which is a legal agreement in which the landowner gives the encroaching neighbor permission to use a portion of the land. If they did, we’d want to find out when the easement terminates, because there’s little your buyer can do to get out of it.
Perhaps Starship engaged in a license rather than an easement. Licenses are more informal and fully revocable. If Starship granted such a license, you (as the agent) will want to talk with your client and the encroaching parties to see if they will be able to reach an agreement after your client takes ownership.
Are there any probate or divorce settlements that grant others a claim to Rock and Roll?
Lead singer and founding member Paul Kantner died in 2016. Knowing that, we’ll want to review his estate documents, including wills (if any) to know if there are any residual interests to be addressed.
As your title company, we’ll want to review the probate to determine if the individuals selling the property have the rights to it.
We’ll also want to know if any of the members of Starship got divorced while they owned Rock and Roll. If so, we’ll need to review a copy of all relevant divorce decrees and quitclaim deeds.
If the pair is still in divorce proceedings, but both still own part of Rock and Roll, you’ll need to find out if the spouse has agreed to the sale of the property, as well as the price.
Was Rock and Roll properly zoned? And are they violating any restrictive covenants?
Starship’s city is currently zoned for Rock and Roll, but is that what your client wants to use it for?
If they’re planning on building a symphony hall dedicated to Classical music, your client may need to file an application with the municipality to rezone the property for the new use.
Also, Rock and Roll may belong to a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) that has noise restrictions. If your client buys Rock and Roll, will they be in violation every time they fire up a Les Paul through a Marshall Plexi?
Or perhaps your client plans on building a studio on Rock and Roll. But if the HOA’s bylaws explicitly state you cannot operate a business on your premises, fearing scary-looking musicians who may hang out all hours of the night, your client may want to back out.
Make sure you build enough time into your due diligence to check into these issues, build contingencies into the contract based on your client’s plans, and get your title company in the loop to help you review your options.
Did Starship update their corporate documents properly?
The band Jefferson Starship was a spinoff of Jefferson Airplane. But when lead singer Kantner left the group because of artistic differences, he had signed an agreement that said he couldn’t form a band with the name “Jefferson” or “Airplane” in it.
As the song itself says,
“Someone’s always playing corporation games
Who cares—they’re always changing corporation names …”
Though he initially thought calling the band “Starship Jefferson” would be enough to fulfill his contract, he eventually simplified the band’s name to “Starship.”
But when he did that, did he take care of his corporate filings to make sure the state knew the band’s new name? If not, they’ll need to update their corporate documents so the title can be transferred successfully.
Though much of what we’ve written above about the band Starship and their city is totally fictional, the title issues in question are real and may affect you as a real estate professional someday, if they haven’t already.
But seriously . . .
Some properties present more issues than others. When it comes to title research, True Title has the background and know-how to get you through the process with minimal drama or difficulty.
When it comes time to choose a title company, pick one that has experience and a history of handling complicated deals.
For your next real estate transaction, choose True Title.