In the case of a prospective purchase, a record search is performed primarily to answer three questions regarding a property on the market:
Does the seller have a saleable and marketable interest in the property?
What kind of restrictions or allowances pertain to the use of the land? These would include real covenants, easements and other equitable servitudes.
Do any liens exist on the property which need to be paid off at closing? These would be mortgages, back taxes, mechanic's liens, and other assessments.
A record search may also be performed when an owner wishes to mortgage property and the bank requires the owner to obtain title insurance.