Have you ever wanted to find out who owns a property? Imagine this. You are an investor looking for opportunities. You’ve driven passed this boarded up delinquent house in an up and coming neighborhood, and you see all sorts of potential. Most investors wouldn’t take on this project because it needs major TLC. But this is just the kind of project you’ve been looking for. You have a vision: fix it up and use it as a rental property. But before you can even begin to start the real work, you need to know who owns this house so you can take the next steps. One of the first questions investors have to solve is how to find out who owns a property? Since the house is in disrepair and no one is living in it, there is no one to talk to. It’s unlikely that you’re going to find the property owner sitting on the front steps waiting for someone to offer them money. What do you do? Don’t worry. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes or hire a private eye to figure that out. That information is readily available and not as challenging to find as you might think. There are a few different methods that are relatively easy, and a few that take a little more devotion, let’s get into them. But first, let’s go over a few of the essentials.
Public Records: The Basics
When you’re trying to find out who owns this house, public record property ownership documents are the first order of business. It’s the most common way to find property owner information. Public records are pretty informative. If you know the address of the property, you can perform a property owner lookup and find out:
- Name of the current owner
- Name of the previous owner
- The date it was sold
- The sale amount (unless it’s in a non-disclosure state)
- If there are any liens on the property
- The original mortgage amount
Now that you know what you can find out, here’s how to find out who owns a property? We are going to start with the simplest methods and work our way down to the most challenging. Don’t sweat it; you’ll be a pro when you’re finished reading this article.
Method #1: Ask a Realtor
If you have a realtor friend, you are in luck. Ask them to help you out by looking into the address of the mystery property. Hopefully, they will be able to assist. Realtors want you to buy property. Asking them for help could benefit you both.
Method #2: Knock Knock Knockin’ on Your Dream Home’s Door
Want to know how to find out who owns a house? Try knocking. You know that Victorian dream home, the one with the turret, that you’ve been eyeing for years? The one that’s NOT for sale.
Well, just because you can’t see a “For Sale” sign on a property, doesn’t mean the owner isn’t willing to sell, especially at the right price. But first things first, who is the house owner? You don’t know if the owner lives there or is renting it out. So you’ll just have to knock, see who answers, and hope they are friendly.
No matter who answers, they will probably be surprised by your visit. This method works if you are interested in purchasing the home, and it’s not on the market. It’s easy to do if you’re looking in a good neighborhood. But do not knock on doors in an area you wouldn’t live in! Not everyone takes kindly to strangers on their doorstep.
OK, so you’ve just learned a couple of pretty simple methods to find out who owns a property. The next few methods take a little more investigation.
Method #3: Go to the Local Tax Assessor
Start by doing a little local sleuthing. The tax assessor generally has records of where they mail the tax bills and to whom. For the most part, the recipient of the bill will be the owner. You might be able to go online to the county’s portal and search for the records. Otherwise, you might have to go to the local tax assessor’s office to search through paper files.
The tax records will provide you with the name and contact information of the owner. You’ll also learn if there are any liens or current disputes. Some states don’t publish the name of the house owner without their permission. So if you want to find out their name and contact information, you will have to go in person.
On the other hand, if you want to know how to find out who owns a property in PA, check out Courthousedirect.com. For a whopping $3.00, you can look up an address online.
Method #4: Go to the County Recorder’s Office
This is another easy way to find out who owns this property. The sole purpose of the County Recorder’s office is to maintain permanent public records having to do with real property. Ask the clerk to look up the address for you and see what they come up with. Their records will show who is the current property owner. You’ll also learn who the previous owner was and if there is an existing lien. If a business owns the property, the clerk can check if there is a DBA (doing business as) certificate for that address. The good news is that some counties have online portals so you can find property owner information online. However, each county is different. Whether it is online or in-person, there might be a fee for the search.
Method #5: Do a Property Deed Search
A deed is a signed legal document used to transfer ownership of a property from the old to the new house owner. First, you need to know the county that the property is in. Once you figure that out, go to the county’s recorder or registrar of deeds website, and do a deed search using the mystery property’s address.
However, it’s not always possible to search online. You might have to do this in person. If so, the office might be called the county clerk or registrar’s offices. It will probably be in the county courthouse or city hall. If you know the address, you should be able to access the deed easily. Not only will you find out who owns this house, but you’ll also learn who they purchased it from and if there are any liens on the property. So, let’s say you want to know how to find out who owns a property in California? The method you use will differ depending on the county.
For example, if you are in Los Angeles County, you have to go in person to find any information. On the other hand, if you are looking in San Diego, you can do it all online. Searching through the county public records can be a time-consuming chore that leads you down the rabbit hole of internet madness. The next method quickens the process.
Method #6: PropertyScout.io
Why go with PropertyTaxRecords.org? There are several reasons:
- You are an investor. You want to buy properties in a county or state you don’t live in. And remember, not every county has online records. Instead of trying to call county offices to get all the info you need, which could be soul-sucking, you simply do it all online with a third party service.
- It’s easy. For a few dollars, you could search every nook and cranny of America and get all the info you need with a couple of clicks.
- It gives you options. You can pay a nominal fee for a one-time property tax report on a specific home/parcel of land. Or you purchase a monthly subscription to use the site as much as you’d like.
- It’s a one-stop-shop. You go to one website and get it all in minutes.
- Last but certainly not least, you can do it all from home in the comfort of your undies.
No matter what, you’ll have all the answers you need in a few minutes. Let’s show you how.
Here is how to find out who owns a property in 3 steps:
Step 1. Let’s say you want to know how to find out who owns a property in Florida? Start by searching for an exact address. Once you get the report, you will find an abundance of information, not just who owns this property. You’ll also get the market value, the year it was built, and the mortgage amount. Want to know how to find out who owns the mortgage on a property? It’s in there too. You’ll get it all.
Step 2. Once you locate the owner’s name on the report, click on the view details link next to their name. That will open another page with the owner’s name at the top.
Step 3. Click on the green Full Profile button next to the owner’s name. This is where you’ll find the good stuff. It will show their phone number and current address. Now you can call or send a letter to the owner with your thoughts or an offer. Voila! You’ve just finished your first property owner lookup. So easy, right? All of the above methods work well if you know the address of the property. But what happens when you don’t? It’s a speed bump but not a dead end.
How to find out who owns a property without an address?
Let’s say you were at a party, and you met a woman who mentioned that she wanted to sell off a few of her properties. You got her business card, but not any of the property addresses. What then? No address = no problem. That’s one scenario, but what if you don’t know the owner? You know the neighborhood and one of the cross streets, but that’s it. Just because you know where a parcel of land is, doesn’t mean you know the correct address. Maybe it is a vacant piece of land, so there is no mailbox or number on it.
Or you were given the wrong address from the beginning. No owner name = no problem. So, where does your research start? First things first, think about what you do know about the property. Do you know the owner? What about the city, county, street name, or neighborhood? With PropertyTaxRecords.org PropertyScout.io, you can use their Search by Map or Search by Owner functions to nail down the exact address you are looking for. So many options! The next method is for when you hit a couple of roadblocks.
Method #7: Check with the Department of State
What if you carry out a property owner lookup only to find that it isn’t owned by an individual, it is owned by a corporation? Now, what do you do? Don’t panic. You go to the Secretary of State or Department of State’s website and search for registered business entities. Look up the corporation name, and you’ll find out who the individual owners and directors are. It’s not complicated to do this; it’s just another layer of websites or city offices to visit. Corporations aren’t the only entity that can make you work a little harder to find out who owns this property. LLC’s take it one step further.
LLC Owners – You Can’t Hide (For the Most Part)
If your research runs you right into an LLC, it definitely adds another layer of complexity to your investigation pile. Many real estate investors will not buy properties in their names. They will create an LLC for each property. One of the significant benefits of owning a property in an LLC is that it protects the owner’s personal assets and other real estate investments from liability. And it offers a deeper level of anonymity (unless you are a pro at sleuthing – which you will be after reading this article).
For example, if you want to know how to find out who owns a property in Indiana, you start your research with the basics – public record property ownership documents. You do your due diligence only to find out that XYZZ LLC owns the property.
Now, to find property owner information, you’ll have to dig a little deeper. Public record property ownership documents can only show you so much. They’ll give you the name of the LLC but not the principals or owners. However, the kind folks of Indiana are very thoughtful, and they want to make your search an easy one. The Indiana Secretary of State has a specific site for free business searches. When you look up XYZZ LLC, you’ll get a plethora of information:
- Name of the principal
- Address of the principal
- Business ID Number
- Creation date of the LLC
- If it is active or inactive
- If it was dissolved, who dissolved it
With all that info, you are golden! Not in Indiana? No problem, we’ve got you covered.
It’s SOS Time!
No, that’s not a distress code. We are referring to the Secretary of State. Go to the Secretary of State website and look up the LLC’s name in the business entity or corporation database. There you’ll find more info about the owners of the company. However, some states allow the owners to remain anonymous or private in public records.
Your research just went from easy to mind-melting pretty quickly, right? But don’t wave the white flag yet. Even if someone is trying to keep their LLC owners anonymous, they still have to record the LLC with the state. Instead of displaying the actual owner’s information, they use an agent of record, which is often an attorney. If you can’t find the actual owner’s contact information, you’ll at least have the agent of record’s details to contact.
The Finish Line
Now you know a bunch of methods to figure out who owns a property. Armed with all of your new knowledge, it’s time for you to contact the owner of that dilapidated home or your Victorian dream house. Go for it!