Property owner records are the most critical piece of information about a property. Unfortunately, they’re also notoriously difficult to track down, particularly when they’re not publicly available on the internet. Property records will typically only show you the owner’s classification, i.e., natural or legal person.
You need to go beyond that to find out who the real people behind the property you’re interested in are. Services like Checkpeople.com are very helpful because they provide information beyond what a simple Google search will yield.
In the vast majority of cases, public records let people search properties by transaction details, parcel ID, address, and/or by the name of the owner. By looking at documents like property sale deeds, you will learn who the reported owner is. By searching for them by name, you can find out quite a lot, not only about them as people but also about their portfolio.
Keep in mind that this information is not always easy to access. Companies and bigger investment groups, in particular, take measures to guard it.
What information do Public Owner Records Reveal?
In general, CRE professionals find these records helpful, but they don’t provide much in-depth information. What you will be able to see are sale amounts (unless your state is a non-disclosure one), dates of sales transactions, liens on a property, the history of property ownership, and tax history.
It’s important to view tax records as they confirm the owner has been paying taxes on the property in an amount proportionate to the property’s appraised value. After a property is sold, the appraised value changes. The new value should be higher than the previous one. If it is the same or lower, that means the value of the property has dropped.
Searching a property’s tax history will give information about its value at the time of appraisal, whether there are any liens on it, whether any taxes are due at the moment, and all past taxes that have been paid. A lien will be placed on a property when money is owed to the IRS, a loan provider, or a company or individual who reconstructed or remodeled the property.
What can you do with the information you find? Let’s say Jim Jones-Hurst has owned a 100-unit apartment block in Denver. By visiting the website of the respective county clerk, you can look for documents by the name of the grantee, grantor, or trustee. Alternatively, you can do a search by the lot and block, date, or file number. You will see the full history of documents related to Jim Jones-Hurst as property owner.
The public record will reveal any mortgages on Jim’s property. You’ll be able to see the value of the original mortgage. Sales deeds will show when the property was purchased, from whom, and what the sale price was. You will also access council district information, the overall square footage of the property, zoning information, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the assessed land value, and the last sale amount. If Jim made any improvements to his property, you’d also see the appraised improvement value.
Where Does the Search Start?
Usually, you should start your deed search with the recorder, county clerk, state registry, or auditor.
You may be able to do an online search through these offices, but you need to visit them in person and ask for physical records for the complete history.
Do not overlook easements, liens, or other encumbrances on record. Easements mean someone else can use the owner’s land. For example, subdivisions frequently have clear utility easements. In other words, the owner gives the utility provider permission to exist on his land. If the property is on a public road, the easement is the part of the property publicly available for use.
Apt real estate professionals can use these findings to figure out the down payment Jim made to buy the property, ex. 30% or 40%. Information obtained through a property owner search can serve as a lucrative insight to gain new business. Let’s say they find his down payment was 45%. This means he has substantial equity in the property. Roofers, solar panel installers, or other CRE service providers will realize Jim might have enough money to invest in roof renovation, insulation, or another home improvement. This might also indicate that Jim wishes to purchase another asset.
Divorce, Death, Birth, and Marriage Records
Copies of divorce, death, birth, and marriage records can be obtained from the county clerk or recorder. Why would you need those? Let’s say you want to buy a house from Eric Jenners. You find he is getting divorced. He might want to sell as fast as possible and move on with his life. Try your luck and offer a lower price than that listed. On the other hand, the divorce might drag on, and the deal could fall through, particularly if the house is jointly owned by Eric and his ex-wife. Either way, remember that trying to use such information for your benefit could backfire.