Comprehensive Property Records Search
Real Estate properties in the US – be they residential or commercial – are considered public record, which means that finding information related to them is fairly easy. There are a number of ways to access relevant property information, and they are easy to access, and mostly free.
Property records refer to legal documents, paperwork and records that contain vital information about real property, like houses, condos, and commercial buildings, or a plot of land. The most common type of property record is a deed. The deed records all the pertinent details of a property: acreage, square footage, the year it was built, type of structure, year it was last sold, estimated value, and other identifying factors. Deeds also list the current owner of the property. When a property changes ownership, the deed is transferred to its new owner. Deeds are maintained by registries of deeds, usually at county level.
Deed records are public, and are covered by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which means that the public can access them. To do so, you need to follow the procedures of the registry in question, and there may be restrictions around how quickly you can access the record, or how complete the information you can request will be. Realtors and real estate lawyers have access to more online resources that contain property records than the general public.
Buying or selling a property involves careful decision making, and access to key facts. When considering a property for purchase, it is important to assess any issues it might have. Deeds can shine a light on issues such as liens or missing tax payments on a property, and these types of issues need to be resolved before a bank will approve financing for the property. Even if you are buying a property with cash, it is in your best interest to assure that the sale will not result in unexpected hurdles or financial consequences. Properties are often owned by one party for years, or even decades, and serious old issues can be uncovered when there is a real estate transaction.
It is also important to review your own deed for accuracy. Deeds are recorded by individuals that work in public offices. While they aim for accuracy, occasional human error can happen. If you spot something strange on your deed, make sure to contact your county’s registry of deeds to explore this further and get some answers.
Whether you are gearing up for a real estate purchase, sale, or just gathering information, here are some ways to access property records:
If you are buying or selling a home, it often means that you are working with a real estate agent. Realtors have access to special online registries specifically for real estate transactions. This means that if you want to review property records before making an offer or closing on real estate, your realtor could very well be the fastest way to obtain these. Ask your realtor to do some digging for public records for properties you are considering. It can save you time to access these before you even see the property.
Most states have a public registry of deeds that you can search. You will need to know the property address, and possibly some additional information. These searches are usually free because these are public online registries. Make sure you explore your state’s online resources for deed and other property information.
In addition to public registries, there are a number of private websites that will pull up deed and property information for you. They are usually paid services, but they are fairly inexpensive. Some charge a one-time fee, and some offer a monthly membership that allows you to pull unlimited records. Paid registries are often easier to navigate than online public registries.
Real estate attorneys, like realtors, also have access to more public property resources than the public. Lawyer time is very expensive, so this is an option if you are already working with a real estate attorney, or if you happen to know one personally and can ask for a favor.
Accessing property records is important if you are looking to buy residential real estate, invest in real estate projects, or if you are considering any other business transactions that relate to properties. Deeds contain in-depth information that you won’t find in real estate listings. They can therefore help you spot issues, such as existing liens against the property. Researching property records is time well spent, due to the insights they provide.