If you’re new to the real estate investing business, you might be wondering how to find the owner of a property, even if you haven’t decided to buy anything just yet. You know that feeling when you’re driving past a neighborhood you’ve always liked and spot a house you can’t help but want to make your own? The problem? It may not be for sale just yet.
The solution? Contact the owners yourself.
If you want to learn whether or not a home is for sale or if it will be in the near future, you can always track down the owner and ask. Here are some ways you can find the owner of a property and the steps you should take after you find them.
There are many reasons why you may want to find the owner of a property. Maybe you found an abandoned house that would be a good house flip opportunity or the house of your dreams and you want to make it your primary residence. Or, you found a plot of land in a prime location.
Finding the property’s owner and persuading them to sell is the goal, but it may take a little bit of effort.
There are several ways to investigate a property, some more time- and money-consuming than others, so knowing where to look first is helpful. There are several public and private resources available online or in person. For example, you can gain access to public records through real estate or legal professionals or try knocking door to door to get more information or by going to the local library.
With a little bit of effort, the right motivated real estate investor can easily find the owner of a home, lot, or piece of land.
Several websites cover this public information, so a quick online search is a good starting point in trying to identify the owner of the property. Keep in mind that this data may not be the most up-to-date or reliable.
Here are some websites:
When everything else fails, real estate agents and legal professionals can provide a backdoor approach to locating the property’s contact information, however, their services may come at an additional expense.
It’s easy to overlook the fact that real estate agents might be able to help you track down the property’s legitimate owner. Public property records and private databases, like the multiple listing services (MLS), are available to real estate professionals, making your search much more accessible.
Here’s what MLS contains:
Have your agent act as your own private investigator and then help you finalize the deal once you’ve found the owner and convinced them to sell.
The services of a real estate attorney are one of the lesser-known but potentially more fruitful ways to identify the property’s owner when all other avenues have been exhausted. Even if they don’t have a database like real estate agents, they may be able to find the owner through other means, such as by looking into the deed book or seeing who is listed as the legal owner of the property.
In some cases, a real estate lawyer can uncover details you would never learn on your own, though it comes with a price.
Since all real estate transactions pass through the legal system, the records of those transactions are public knowledge and can be obtained at any time for free or for a low fee.
If you have no luck searching online, your first stop should be at the local tax assessor’s office, where you can learn who owns the property and how much they pay in taxes. The data card for the property has all the necessary contact information, including the current street name of the owner and possibly even phone numbers, and can be obtained by asking the clerk.
Here’s the info they will have on the property:
If you prefer not to go in person, you may find out how much the house is worth, if there are any tax liens against it, and how big it is by visiting the official website for the most recent assessment. While this is the most time-efficient choice, it is unlikely to include the owner’s contact information (such as an address or phone number). For that, you’d have to go in person.
The next step is the county recorder or clerk’s office, which is responsible for maintaining documents and information such as:
Here, you can also use the official website for your county recorder, which is mostly free of charge, though sometimes they charge a small fee. Also, since every office is unique, things might get complicated if you need to find the owner (or owners) of several properties in more than one county. In this case, you should devise a way to keep track of potential leads and the large amounts of data you will have to deal with.
Another problem for new investors on a tight budget is the small fees they must pay each time they ask about a property. These little fees can add up, but there are several methods to finding the owner of a property for free.
This may surprise you, but your local library also has access to public records and a wide array of local information that can help you locate a property owner at no cost. Some libraries even allow you to access property and land records online on the library’s website.
If there’s someone living on the property, you can always try the tried-and-true method of knocking on the door. If the owner is around when you visit, you can initiate contact right away; otherwise, you may need to pay multiple visits or leave a letter explaining your situation, your info, and maybe even an offer.
Although this strategy is as old as time, it’s important to remember that not everyone welcomes having strangers approach them directly.
If you can’t get in touch with the owner or it looks like the property has been abandoned, you could ask the neighbors for information. It’s a gamble, but the neighbors might know a lot about the area around the property.
Not everyone welcomes strangers entering their property, so it’s important to be polite and even leave a note with your contact information if no one is home.
You may not be able to knock on the door or ask the neighbors about the owner of vacant land, but there are other ways to find this out.
Here are some online resources to help you find the owner of land:
You can perform a title company search to reveal the owner of land and the liens against it. The downside is that they are normally part of the loan closing process and can cost anywhere from $75 to $200 or more, depending on the area.
If you’re on a budget, consider trying the other methods first. However, you can usually obtain it at a reduced cost through your county recorder’s or assessor’s office.
As deeds are legal documents recorded by the county and in the registrar’s office where it’s located, you can still access them online if you want to avoid making the trip.
Here are the steps on how to look them up online:
Given the complexity of this, you may question whether or not title deeds establish ownership. Knowing the distinction between the two is the first step: The title is the concept of ownership rights, while the deed is the actual document establishing legal ownership.
To put it another way, just because you have the deeds to property doesn’t mean you have the title and the rights.
Like marriage and divorce decrees, deeds become public records when they are sent to the court system. This means that anyone can access them from anywhere. A copy of the deed can be obtained at any time, however, there may be a price involved depending on where you go.
Even if the property or land is not posted for sale, this does not rule out the possibility of convincing the owner. Once you’ve identified the property or land owner, you’ll need a plan to persuade them to sell.
Here are a few ideas for making your offer stand out:
What do you do after you’ve located the land or property you’ve always wanted, tracked down its owner, and persuaded them to sell it to you? If you aren’t paying cash, the next step is to determine your financial condition, including getting preapproved for a mortgage. Gather your savings for the down payment and get started on the mortgage application process.
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Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.