How to Find Out Who Owns a Building

By Teo Spengler ; Updated April 13, 2017

Determine who owns a building by using the records maintained by the city or county in which the building is located. Many cities and counties offer online searchable databanks that you can access from your computer, but sometimes you must go into the property records office.

Recorder/Assessor Property Office

Taxing real property brings big bucks to a state's coffers when tax time rolls round. Therefore, every state has a system in place to assess real property within its borders.

Sometimes the office is called the Assessor, sometimes the County Clerk or simply Office of Real Property Taxation. The name of the office varies by state but retains the same duties: to value the personal and commercial property within its borders for tax purposes.

In California, for example, the office is termed the Assessor-Recorder's Office and is maintained on a county-wide basis. Thus, valuation documents about California real property located in San Francisco are recorded with the City and County of San Francisco Assessor and Recorder.

To determine the name of the property assessment office in your state, consult the Public Records website. It contains links to the relevant offices in each state.

Accessing Recorded Property Information

Many but not all states provide the public with an online database that includes assessment records. Often you can search these records from your own computer, searching by property address, property ID number and sometimes, by owner name.

If you see a building you are curious about, you can probably use an online search engine to determine who owns that building, its valuation for tax purposes and its sales history. Some offices, like the Assessor and Recorder in San Francisco, offer mapping applications. With these, you don't even need to know the street address. Pull up the map of the city, find the house by its relationship to a street or a landmark and click on it.

If for some reason the owner isn't listed in the search response, look at the documents associated with the property. One is likely to be the deed that will contain the owner's name.

Finding Out Who Owns a Building Without an Online Search

Manual searching seems excessively time consuming in this technological age, but do whatever it takes to get the job done. If your property recording jurisdiction doesn't have an online search engine, go to the office in person.

Give the clerk the street address of the property and ask for assistance in learning the name of the owner. You'll find out who owns the building in no time.

About the Author

Living in France and Northern California, Teo Spengler is an attorney, novelist and writer and has published thousands of articles about travel, gardening, business and law. Spengler holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from San Francisco State University and a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley. She is currently a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.