Information on the buying and selling of real estate and records of ownership are found in publicly recorded deeds. To search the records for transfers of ownership, you need a starting point using information from a particular deed and then you can either work backward or forward from one transfer deed to another. The information in each deed will indicate who transferred his rights to the property and to whom. Once you have determined a list of successive owners, you have established a chain of title, which is known as conducting a title search.
Determine the full address and property owner's name, if possible, for the property on which you want to conduct a title search.
Find out where deeds are recorded in the community where the property is located. Most deeds are recorded in a designated county office, usually called the "recorder's office," but some deeds are recorded at the local county courthouse. Locate the room at the courthouse or county record's office designated for reviewing property records. Due to privacy issues, this information is probably not accessible online from the courthouse or county website.
Locate the section in the public viewing room where the deeds are kept for the property in which you are interested. There should be employees available to assist you in locating the necessary records. You may also need assistance on using the record-retrieval system, such as a microfiche reader or computer. Use the property address to first search for the current owner's name.
Using the property owner's name, look in the "grantor-grantee index" for the deed transferring ownership of the property to the current owner. The grantee index lists the deeds by the buyer's name and the grantor index lists the deeds by the seller's name. Once you find this deed, you will have the name of the person—the grantor--who sold the property to the current owner.
Using the name that you just located as the grantor, again look in the grantor-grantee index, but search for this name as the grantee to find the deed transferring the property to him. This deed will show who transferred the property to him. You can repeat this process as many times as needed to search the chain of title as far back in time as you want.
- Many private companies will perform the title search for a fee, if you cannot travel to the courthouse or county record's office to do it yourself. Look for a company that is local to the recording office and compare fees among several companies before choosing.
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