How Do you Find out Who Owns a House?
Property records are a great source of information. Property records are public records and they can be found at city hall or at the county recorder of deeds office. Because cities and towns collect taxes on each parcel of land, they are keen to stay on top of ownership records for prompt payment of these fees. Start by contacting city hall or the county tax office to find out where records are held and when they can be viewed.
Tax assessors are local officials who keep track of changes to properties and who owns them. Assessors must raise or lower the property value according to improvements made, including installing a sewer system, building a home, or adding substantially to existing buildings. Taxes are calculated on the assessed value. Records kept by assessors are detailed, describing the property and any changes made that affect the value.
There are a variety of online searches that can be performed to determine the owner of a property but they are less reliable than city or county records. Many online searches cannot distinguish between the names of renters and owners, or may not be as up-to-date as records found through municipal offices. In addition, public records are usually provided for free or for a minimal copying fee, rather than the subscription price many online property searches may charge. You can perform property records search through ReordsFinder
Public Records Search
Some municipalities make these records available online, with owner’s names attached to the parcels. Others may require a specific request to see the record of a parcel, and the owner’s name may be in a separate record. This information is all public. In some county or city halls, you can expect to review paper or digital maps in order to accurately identify the correct parcel or building.
If you’re interested in contacting the property owner, you may request his mailing address from the tax assessor’s office as it could be different from the street address of the property. If you’re hoping to make an offer to buy the property it’s a good idea to look closely at the information the assessor’s office has about it, as this data, including the age of the buildings, the type of foundation, the existence of an outdated septic system, and other details can help you determine the upper limit of your offer.
Some of the terminology that you may run into includes:
- map and plat – old-fashioned records are found on paper maps, and each town or city has dozens or hundreds, covering every inch of the geographic area. First, you need to narrow your search to the specific map that includes the section of the city or town you’re interested in, then you must find the property, which is usually identified by a unique plat number.
- Metes and bounds – this is an old fashioned term that refers to the surveyed boundaries of a piece of property and more often refers to less developed (non-city) land.
- Lots and blocks – these terms refer to the mapping of properties for public records, and the lot and block numbers of a specific parcel may be necessary to look up the owner.
- Property card – the tax assessor’s office keeps a record on each piece of property, listing the year any buildings were constructed, type of construction, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and owner information. Also included is information about previous owners, sale prices, and the approximate value of the property and buildings. Note that some information may not be completely up to date because it relies on an assessor’s representative visiting the home and updating records.
- Abatement – this is a process by which the property owner seeks to reduce his property taxes through an agreement with the taxing authority (town, county, etc.). An abatement may show up on property records.
- Delinquent – if a property owner neglects to pay his taxes in full, the taxing authority will eventually do more than send notices of past-due bills. After a period of about two years, the city or county may begin the process of taking ownership of the property in lieu of unpaid taxes. Even though an owner may be delinquent he retains the right to pay the bill in full and reclaim title to the property, or even buy it back at auction for the amount of taxes due to plus fees.
- Condemned – At times properties that have been abandoned due to overwhelming damage, death of the owner, or other reasons may be declared condemned. In most jurisdictions, a condemnation requires the building to be razed and rebuilt as condemnation generally means a structure cannot be rehabilitated. Oftentimes the removal of any remaining structure must be addressed before the sale of the property or in the purchase and sale documents.
- Foreclosed – When a property owner stops paying his mortgage, the bank that holds the note, or loan, is likely to foreclose on the property after a specified period of time. The mortgage company is likely to then auction the home, a process for which public notice is posted in places like local newspapers, and usually, in city hall.
- Eminent domain – A property can be “taken” by a government in exchange for fair market price (determined by an independent appraisal) when the property stands in the way of a planned project such as a highway, a new school, or another major urban renewal project. Any plans for the eminent domain could be the reason behind an abandoned or condemned property.
- Auction – If a property has been taken by the city or county in lieu of unpaid taxes, or if the owner fell behind in mortgage payments, it will usually be sold at auction. Under these circumstances, public notices are generally posted in city hall prior to the event, and details of the auction, including any opportunity to view the premises prior to the event, are included.