How to Find a Public Record of Ownership of Property

By Aaron Gifford - Updated March 21, 2017
For Sale sign on front lawn of house

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Every property is owned by some person or entity, even if it's vacant. Even if the property is off the tax rolls, there will still be records noting its address, owner, and assessed value. The list of records on a property include assessment rolls, property tax bills, deeds, parcel identification numbers and liens or court documents.

Gather information on the property. Get the house number, as well as the street name and town in which it is located. Note other street numbers, cross streets or landmarks. Trade that information for an address and parcel ID number at the county tax mapping office.

Visit the County Clerk/Recorder's office and bring the address and parcel number with you. There, you can search title books to see who currently owns the property and who previously owned it. You can also check for liens on the property and find out if the property's ownership is disputed. In addition, if the property was recently sold, you can check the listing of recent transactions. If the property is owned by a business that doesn't sound familiar to you, ask the clerk if there are any 'Doing Business As' (DBA) certificates filed under that address. The DBA, in turn, might include names.

Stop at the town/city/village hall to search for property tax records and assessment figures. Both the assessor and tax collector/chamberlain can access information on the parcel. If the property is tax-exempt, there should still be an assessed value and a record of who owns it.

Check your state department of state's web site for listings of certain corporations. If the owner is listed as a company you are unfamiliar with and no DBA certificates have been filed for that address, there's a chance that it might be owned by a corporation that has filed records with the Secretary of State or the state Department of Corporations. The types of corporate public records that are available online vary by state. Annual reports might include records noting ownership of a property.


Voter registration records are not a good indicator of property ownership because many people don't own their place of residence.

About the Author

Aaron Gifford is based in New York. He has been on staff at the "Syracuse Post-Standard," the "Watertown Daily Times" and the "Oneida Daily Dispatch." He's also written for "Long Island Newsday," "Empire State Report" magazine and "In Good Health." He has been writing professionally since 1995. Gifford holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University at Buffalo.

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