Property ownership is public; the ownership of any house on any street in any city can be discovered by accessing the county records. You can use public property assessment records or the register of deeds to find the owner of a home. Search those records either in person or online, using the street address of the home, the parcel number or the legal description of the property.
Read More: How to Use a Name to Check for a Property Owner
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Head to your local tax assessor's office or the register of deeds for the county in which the property is located. You can search the property records by address or parcel number for a fee. Some of these offices have free online searches as well, which makes things a little bit easier.
Locating the Assessor's Office
Every state has an assessor's office tasked with valuing real estate within its jurisdiction for purposes of assessing real estate taxes. Often the agencies operate at a county level, and they may be given a name other than "Assessor," including State Auditor, Recorder, County Clerk, Treasurer or Office of Real Property Taxation.
Learn how your state organizes its real property valuation by conducting an online search. For example, the Free Public Records Directory (see Resources) publishes a website where assessor and property tax regulation is laid out by state. Pick your state from the menu and learn the title of the office you are looking for as well as the website or other contact information.
Alternatively, run an online search using the city and state where the home you are interested in is located. If you still have trouble, call the city hall in the vicinity of the home and ask for the name of the agency that assesses property values.
Contacting the Assessor's Office
Once you find the name and location of the relevant property assessor's office, visit the office to obtain the information. Some offices accept phone call inquiries on house ownership, while many provide a database for an online search.
For example, California's real property tax records are maintained by the county assessor in each county. Most assessors provide an online database that is searchable by parcel number and address. Some, like the Assessor-Recorder's Office in San Francisco, allow you to use an interactive map to identify the home that you are interested in.
Obtaining a Property Report from a Title Company
You can also find the owner of a home by asking a title company to put together a property report on that address. You'll have to pay for the report, and the fees differ widely among companies.
But title reports give you lots of information. By purchasing a title report, you obtain not just the name of the owner of the house, but also the legal description of the property, all open recorded liens or known liens, property tax status and property assessed value and completed chain of assignment information.
Chain of assignment information tracks debt on the property. It links up debt the same way a prosecutor tracks evidence in a criminal case, accounting for the murder weapon from the time it was found at the murder scene through the trial. If the prosecution loses track of who had the gun along the way, it is no longer reliable evidence.
Just so, the title company traces debt on the property from one debt buyer to the next to prove where the debt originated and where it has been since then.
Searching with the County Recorder
You can also search land records at the recorder of deeds or register of deeds for the county where the property sits. Many counties offer online searches, but if yours doesn't, you can always go to the office during business hours and do a search by address. You'll be charged a fee for the search, plus a fee per page for any copies you want to take with you.
Read More: How to Find the Property Owner of a Street Address
- Public Records Directory: Assessor and Property Tax Records Resources
- First American Title: Property Reports - Residential
- San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder: Property Search
- Caveat Emptor Blog: Evidence of Assignment
- Legal Beagle: How to Find the Property Owner of a Street Address
- Legal Beagle: How to Use a Name to Check for a Property Owner
- Legal Beagle: How to Find Property Taxes By Address
- Legal Beagle: How to Find a Legal Property Description
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.