How to Find a Public Record of Ownership of Property

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.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Property ownership is public record. You can find out who owns a parcel of real estate if you have the address. You'll need to search the records at the property tax assessor's office or the county recorder of deeds; the records may or may not be available online.

Get as Much Information as You Can

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 Recorder or Register of Deeds

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.

Some counties have their land records online. For example, Wayne County, Michigan, where Detroit is located, allows public online access to property records. So does Philadelphia.

Check with the Tax Assessor

Both the assessor and tax collector/chamberlain can access information on a parcel. If your county register of deeds is unavailable or not easily accessible, try the assessor. The property tax records will show up-to-date information about who owns the property. If the property is tax-exempt, there should still be an assessed value and a record of who owns it.

The Department of State or Secretary of State

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.

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