Finding out whether a property has liens on it is important whether you're buying or selling. Liens can be for just a few dollars or they can exceed the value of the property. Normally, you will have real estate professionals working with you if you are buying or selling property, but given that most counties provide access to these records online, there is no reason you can't research this information yourself.
Find existing property liens by taking advantage of the fact that liens become a matter of public record once they are filed. Don't give in to the agencies that offer to do it for you for a fee, they will be searching the same public records that you have access to yourself.
Search online using the county in which the property is located and the words "clerk recorder." That will get you the official county site that keeps all records online. You will see listings for every kind of public document, from birth certificates to liens filed against properties.
You can also go to the clerk's office where you can get people to assist you, but searching online may be more convenient.
Check for liens by entering the name of the property owner or the physical address of the property. If you are selling your home, your title company will search for liens against your property as well, but it makes sense to check for yourself, particularly if you have ever had a dispute with someone that worked on your home or yard. Escrow will not close on a property until all liens have been resolved.
Take a good look at the title insurance you have as part of your legal protection when buying property. This can ensure that, in the event a lien slips past you, your real estate agent and your title company, you may be covered. Title insurance is a standard part of purchasing property, but when you are signing all of the documents necessary to purchasing property, take a moment and review the title insurance. Ask your Realtor for specific information.
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images