If you are thinking of buying a property or need to verify ownership of a property you are interested in, it’s time to do a real property search. Conducting a search through public property records search services can reveal information that could impact the transfer of the deed, like hidden debts or liens. In this article, we’ll dig into some ways to perform a property owner lookup or real estate lookup on your own.
Why Do I Need to Do a Real Property Search?
Unfortunately, there are dishonest people out there, and when you are purchasing a large investment like a home, you need to confirm that the seller is actually authorized and entitled to sell the property in the first place.
Public property records enable you to conduct a title search. This will reveal who the rightful and legal owner of the property is and whether or not there are any claims or liens on the property.
The current owner might be aware of old claims against the property’s title, but their debts can come back to haunt you if there are loans attached to the property. Unpaid taxes, homeowner’s association fees, bills, and other payments could easily become your responsibility (and personal nightmare).
Following the Process
You’ll start with a property history search. You can usually compile a chronology of all available documents and transactions related to the property in question. This could include information on all current and previous owners, surveys of the property, lists of easements that cross the property, and wills and lawsuits that may involve the property.
This search should also deliver information about any outstanding property taxes or liens, or easements against the house of any kind. These could negatively impact you if you proceed with the purchase, so it’s best to check.
You are ideally looking for a house title search that shows clear and free ownership of the property. If you are still concerned, you can safeguard yourself even further by purchasing title insurance or a warranty of title.
This will protect your ownership against the claim of the property in the future, although it’s sometimes best to avoid the headache altogether by not completing the sale.
You will need the location, block, or property lot details, the owner’s name, and whatever else you may know about the property to conduct the search.
Who Can Conduct a Property Search?
You can hire a title company or attorney to take care of the property lookup, but there’s no reason why you can’t do it yourself. Hiring a professional can be beneficial because they will be able to interpret the documentation for you, but this comes with a hefty price tag of anywhere between $75 to $200, depending on where the property is located.
You can seek out the records from the county courthouse, recorder’s office, or county assessor’s office. Alternatively, if you don’t want to go through the hassle of sifting through paper records and traveling from pillar to post looking up records, you can use a public records website.
There may be a small fee, but you will find the information you are looking for immediately, from multiple sources, at once.
What a Property Search Will Reveal
Your property search will reveal a host of issues that might make you think twice about purchasing the property, but it could also put your mind at ease. This includes:
- Breaks in the chain of title
- Tax, mechanic’s or creditor’s liens
- Bankruptcies by the owner
- Zoning ordinances
- Judgments against the owner
- Claims by neighbors of ownership of part of the land due to a survey
- Pending or current foreclosures on the property
- Local permits and permissions
- Divorce proceedings that could contest the transfer of the property
- Building code violations
If you discover any issues that may give you pause, speak to a real estate attorney ASAP. You might be able to clear the issues up, or it may be time to move on.
Buying a property is a big investment, and you need complete peace of mind. Conducting a real property search can put your mind at ease, knowing that the deal is as good as it looks on paper.