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How do I find out who owns a property?

Find out who owns a property by following these guidelines.

Who owns that house? [© Shutterstock Images, 2010]
© Shutterstock Images, 2010
Who owns that house?

There are many reasons people might want to search for property or find out who owns a property. Maybe they are interested in renting an apartment and want to speak to the apartment building's owner. Or perhaps they've seen suspicious activity around a house in the neighborhood and want to alert its owner. Business owners might spot the ideal property for their company and want to contact its owner to make a deal. Whatever the reason, it's relatively easy to find out who owns a property.

County Recorder of Deeds

One way to find out who owns a property is to determine the county in which the property exists and visit that county's recorder of deeds or registrar of deeds. These county offices keep records of property transactions and ownership including deeds, mortgages, land contracts, real estate transactions and survey maps.

Some records are available online. In Cook County, Ill., for example, property information can be located online at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds Web site by searching for the property's grantor/grantee, document number, legal description, property identification number, trust number or subdivision. People can buy the necessary records online or in person at the recorder of deeds office, depending on the date the property was last purchased.

Generally, when searching for the owner of a property at a county recorder of deeds office, keep in mind that the name listed as the grantee on the most recent title document should be the name of the current property owner.

County Tax Assessor

Another way to find out who owns a property is to contact the county tax assessor's office in the county where the property is located. County tax assessors are responsible for locating taxable residential and nonresidential property in the county and identifying the property's owner, as well as information such as its sale price, market value and assessed value. Depending on the county, one might be able to search for a property by its street address or by another identifying number, such as a permanent index number, or PIN.

Assessor's offices typically charge a fee for property records. Some offer records in a variety of formats, like CD-ROM, hard copy or DVD. The Los Angeles County Office of the Assessor can even provide property information -- including the property owner's name -- over the phone.

You can find a county assessor or county recorder of deeds office by searching online. Or, you may check out the County Information Search at HomeInfoMax, a for-profit database of information on counties, including e-mail contacts and courthouse addresses.

Those who would rather have someone else do the legwork to find out who owns a property have alternatives to county offices: real estate professionals and online companies that specialize in property records.

Real Estate Professionals

Real estate professionals, such as brokers and agents, can help find out who owns a property by searching the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database. The MLS is available only to these professionals and contains property details on homes for sale, new construction and commercial and investment properties. Local MLS databases are usually maintained by realtor associations.

To find a local real estate agent where the property in question is located, try the National Association of Realtor's Find a Realtor service.

Online Companies

Online companies that specialize in property records make it easy to find out who owns a property. Be aware, however, that these companies charge a fee for their services and may require a subscription purchase.

HomeInfoMax, for example, bills itself as "the largest online source of real property records in the United States." HomeinfoMax offers several types of property reports. A basic property report includes data such as current ownership, property type, location, property characteristics, last market sale and ownership transfer information. The company also sells detailed property reports, property histories, parcel maps and more.

To access HomeinfoMax property reports, customers have to buy a subscription to the service. One of the company's packages includes 30-day access to reports plus two basic reports. There also is a continuous access plan that requires an initial deposit, an account activation fee and a monthly fee. Before subscribing to any of these services, however, first verify that HomeinfoMax covers the state and county for the property in question.

Another company that can help someone find out who owns a property is PublicRecordFinder.com. Simply conduct a property search and order a property report that contains owner information, sales history, current value and other public record information, including county records. Report prices vary.

Netronline is another source for information on who owns a property. The company covers hundreds of counties nationwide and compares its services to "having the keys to the courthouse." In addition to finding out who owns a property, users can also print copies of deeds and find similar properties. Prices for the company's property reports vary depending on where the property is located.

Finding out who owns a property doesn't have to be a chore. Whether visiting the county courthouse, contacting a real estate agent, or ordering a property report online, people can get the home ownership information they need relatively easily.

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