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Have you ever wondered, “How do I determine who owns a piece of property”? If you have, you’re not the first one eyeing a piece of real estate — and wanting to know all its ownership details.
There can be several reasons why you may not get the details about the owner of the property easily. A straightforward talk-to-the-neighbors may not be sufficient. Cases in point: when the property in question has been vacant for a long time or if the home is rented or if there’s insufficient info on the title transfer.
But, guess what? You don’t have to hire a private investigator to find out who owns a particular property. Or, spend a huge amount of money in this search. The information is available to the public if you knock on the right doors! Read on to learn about how to find property owners.
Reasons why anyone would want to find out who owns a property
Obtaining detailed information on property ownership will give you an overall picture of its history. Maybe you’re a real estate investor looking to land the best real estate deals or a potential homebuyer who’s planning to acquire the property for a small price. Whatever your reasons, everyone interested in a specific piece of land or house wants to look for off-market real estate opportunities.
Here are some of the most common reasons why you’d want to find out who owns a property:
- If you’re purchasing a house, you will need to find out every piece of information about the property. It will help you understand all the aspects, including the condition of the structures, before signing on the dotted line. The law requires you to get the entire history of the property — right from the first owner to its current owner.
- If you’re interested in any development project in the area, this information will help you understand the real estate market better.
- In case you’ve come across an unusual or an abandoned property, you may want to know who owns it.
- As a property investor, you may want to learn more about the surroundings and other environmental aspects of the area.
- If it’s a property you’re eyeing, you may want to get in touch with the owner to try to strike a profitable deal.
How do I determine who owns a piece of property?
The good news is that finding the name of a property’s owner is not as hard as it may seem. The process can be often fast and easy. But, only if you know where to look and whom to speak with.
If you’re wondering how to find the owner of a property, you’ve got lots of options. You could choose to do an online search or an in-person search — depending on the location of the property, the rules of the state and county you live in, and the information you’re starting with.
To help you navigate through all the ways, we’ve listed some expert tips and steps on how you can determine who owns a property.
Contact the tax assessor
One of the easiest ways to fish out ownership details is to find out who is paying taxes on the property. You can get such public records through your local tax assessor’s office.
A good way is to visit their official website to conduct this research. You will need either the address of the property or the parcel ID of the house to get the information. Keep in mind that sometimes the property may not have an address — which is often the case with vacant land.
The tax assessment department will also give you access to the relevant information, including the most recent appraisal, property dimensions, tax liens if any, and most importantly the contact details of the homeowner.
However, there’s a chance that you may not get complete information online. In which case, you will have to go to the tax assessor’s office in person.
Check the county recorder
Fortunately, property deeds and title documents are publicly available, much like the assessment rolls. The United States has well organized official websites such as the Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS) where you can look up such information — free of cost. In some special cases, you may be expected to pay a fee though. Once you look at the property deeds, you’ll be able to understand who the real owner is. Or, whether you’re dealing with an LLC-owned property, a property of a trust, or individual ownership.
However, the extent of information you’ll get through these governmental websites will depend on the state you live in. For example, you can find scanned copies of deeds going back to the 1960s in New York through the ACRIS while states such as Arkansas or Missouri may not offer that convenience.
Use online resources
Sometimes, tracking the owner of a house or land can be particularly difficult. More so if the property doesn’t have an address or is a commercial building. In such cases, the best way to determine who owns the property is by researching through online real estate databases.
There are several real estate data providers that give you access to the contact information of owners, especially of LLCs. Some online search tools offer the information for free while others exchange it for a monthly subscription. Interestingly, apart from finding out the ownership details, you can also find the parcel ID, tax liens history, and even assessed value of the property!
Read more: What is the assessed value of a home
Connect with a title company
If the above measures do not get you the kind of information you want, there are always title companies. Since they deal in real estate transactions — right from handling the paperwork to providing title insurance — they can help you track down the owner of a property.
These title companies can perform background checks to determine if there are any tax liens or unpaid property taxes. This is crucial information for you if you’re considering buying that property. However, such info comes at a cost, usually ranging between $200 and $400. But, if you’re a potential homebuyer, it will be a worthwhile investment for you.
Planning to buy a house? Here are the 10 best first-time homebuyer loans for you.
Ask a real estate agent
Real estate agents in the area might be able to help you with information regarding the ownership. If they’re any good, they may have already researched the property in anticipation of adding it to their portfolio. If you’re serious about buying that property, it’s best to hire an agent to help you close the deal.
Finding out who is the owner of a property is a critical part of your research. Especially when you’re planning a real estate investment. So, if that abandoned house matches your idea of a dream home and you want to bypass a realtor and contact the owner directly, you should have that option.
Or perhaps you’re a tenant living in a rental property who suspects their landlord’s claim of ownership and needs to get to the bottom of it. Whatever the reason, there are ways to get owner information. We’ve listed some of the most practical methods of going about it. We hope these steps will help you track down the information you need.
So, start with your research today and own that house you were eyeing!