There are several reasons you might want to conduct a real property search. The property search could form part of a property owner lookup or a bid to track someone down via their last known address.
Others may perform a property history search when they buy a property to make sure that the title is free from defects, like another person’s rights, that could affect or decrease its value. Most people receive a preliminary real estate lookup report during the sale process, but it’s important not to solely rely on that if you want to be as safe as possible.
Who Can Conduct a Real Property Search?
When you decide to conduct a property search, you can use a real estate lawyer, examiner, or agent, or just do it yourself by looking through public property records.
A real estate attorney or agent will usually look up the title when you request refinance or a mortgage loan. They have access to title companies and large property databases. Unfortunately, their services cost a lot of money, which is why it’s a good idea to do the search yourself.
You will have to examine property records in person or online using whatever known facts at your disposal, including the name of the owner, the street address, lot number, or anything else you know about the property. Each state will have its own record-keeping system and rules, so using an online database is often your best bet.
What Do You Need to Know Before Conducting the Search?
All you’ll really need to get started is the address of the property – then you can take it from there. It’s a good idea to add as much information to your search as possible, including the name of the current owner or seller, to verify your information.
Using the Property Chain
When you find the best site for your search, use the address to see what comes up, along with other relevant search terms, like the owner’s name. Once you find it, look through the recent deed to see if you can spot any red flags, e.g., if the seller’s name differs from the one listed on the deed. The records should also list previous liens and deeds, known as the chain of title. You should examine the chain for information that could indicate a problem, like a mechanic’s lien or missing names. If you find something you aren’t sure of, you should consult your attorney right away.
Visiting the Courthouse or County Assessor
If you don’t want to use an online database, you will find chains of title and deed information at your local courthouse. However, this courthouse should be located near the land that you are purchasing. Just be warned, you’ll have to go through physical paper records by hand. It’s a time-consuming process, but it won’t cost you a dime.
Alternatively, you can use the county assessor’s office. You will usually find records on state government sites. This form of search is free as well, but it’s often incomplete. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you’ll have to visit the courthouse.
What Happens If You Can’t Find Your Property?
If you can’t find your property during an online or offline search, the information might have been mislabeled, misplaced, or not transferred to the current system. It doesn’t mean that there are no issues or restrictions with the property. If nothing turns up, you may want to hire a professional to help you dig up the records.
Ways to Use Property Search Tools
If you are using a site like Radaris.com to look up a property owner, you can use the platform for a number of functions, including:
- Researching Properties before investing
- Checking up on property owners
- Conducting property investment research or mortgage lending research
- Verifying the ownership of a property
- Screening a prospective tenant
You’ll find more information than you could even imagine with the click of a button!
Conducting a real property search doesn’t have to require hiring an expensive lawyer or investigator. With the right tools and tricks, you can find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about a property or property owner in a few minutes.