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How to Find the Owner of a Property

How to Find the Owner of a Property

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By Josephine Nesbit
On March 31, 2023

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.

 

Why Find the Owner of a Property?

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.

 

How to Find Property Ownership

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.

How to Find Property Details Online

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:

  • US Realty Records: Enter the address of the property to see its value, details, owners, taxes, mortgages, sales history, and more.
  • Property Shark: This can help you find further information about the property and the owner’s name, mailing address, and other contact information.
  • Property Radar: A simple search will yield the owner’s information and additional contact details like email and phone number.
  • Melissa Lookups: Access to the property’s owner, present tenants, square footage, assessed value, and tax assessments, among other details.
  • Searchbug: Investors often use post office boxes instead of street addresses, complicating the search process. You can use Searchbug to look up their physical address and PO box number.
  • NetrOnline: Nationwide Environmental Tile Research gathers data from from a variety of government sources. Here, you can find property information through the Public Records Portal and Property Data Store as well as information on environmental concerns through an Environmental Database.

How to Find Contact Details of a Property Owner

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.

Real Estate Agent

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:

  • Owner’s name
  • Property address
  • Square footage
  • Tax assessments and any liens
  • Previous owners, including all ownership data
  • When it was last renovated and sold

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.

Real Estate Attorney

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.

How to Find the Owner of a Property Using Public Records

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.

Local Tax Assessor’s Site

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:

  • Current owner’s information
  • Price and sale history
  • Current valuations
  • Tax liens

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.

County Recorder

The next step is the county recorder or clerk’s office, which is responsible for maintaining documents and information such as:

  • Birth records
  • Death deeds
  • Property deeds (ownership records) and who signed them. If an LLC signed them, it could be harder to track down the owner
  • Any public information about the property

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.

How Can I Find Out Who Owns a House by Address for Free?

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.

Local Library

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.

Knock on the Door

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.

Neighbors

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.

How to Find Out Who Owns Land

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:

  • Google Maps: You can inquire about the land at the county clerk’s or tax assessor’s office, but without an address, you might have a harder time getting specific details. Use the Google Maps Street View feature to locate the street address or exact coordinates.
  • State parcel maps: State parcel maps, often known as property or tax maps, are available in some but not all states. This can be used to learn more about a specific piece of land, such as who owns it, how much it’s worth, and who, whether an individual or a company owns it.
  • Online services: You could also pay for a real estate service and talk to a real estate investor or agent to find out who the land’s owner is and what they know about the property. The best way to find what you need is through people you know, such as investors or agents.

How Do I Look up Land Title Deeds?

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.

How Do I Find Title Deeds Online?

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:

  1. Visit the website of the National Association of Counties (NaCo) and use the site’s city/zip feature to determine the county in which the property is located.
  2. Get in touch with the local tax assessor as they will have comprehensive information on the property. If you have trouble navigating the website, or if you can’t locate the assessor’s office within a reasonable amount of time, give them a call to ensure that their office is open and that their data can be accessed electronically.
  3. Once you’ve located the appropriate department online, you can access the relevant property records by searching for phrases like “real estate data/records.”

Do Title Deeds Prove Ownership?

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.

Are Deeds Public Records?

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.

How to Convince an Owner to Sell

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:

    • Earnest money deposit: An earnest money deposit isn’t always a requirement, but it could be one approach to show the seller that you are serious about the purchase, and it also protects both sides if the deal falls through. Expect to put down anywhere from 1-3% of the purchase price.
    • Preapproval letter: Unless you plan to pay with all cash, a preapproval for a mortgage might distinguish your offer by guaranteeing the loan’s quality.
  • Write a letter: You could also try writing a letter to the seller to make a connection and show that you are a serious buyer.

Next Steps After You’ve Found and Convinced an Owner to Sell

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.

Ready to buy? Finding the right investment property can be a challenge. By gaining access to New Western’s real estate investment marketplace, you can find a vast inventory of exclusive properties to meet your investment strategies.

Fill out our contact form and a New Western agent will call or email you within 48 hours for an initial no-obligation conversation.

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.