Despite the proclaimed importance of real estate, potential homeowners often do not check title records, especially if they pay for a house themselves. Often, if a lender mortgages a property for you, they will have a title search completed (that you usually must pay for). A title search will investigate the legal right to the possession of real property. When possession of a house takes place, a deed, which is a written instrument that conveys the ownership of a property to another person, is recorded. Both the title and deed for a house are a matter of public record.
Check the county tax assessor's office for records of the title and deed. All property within a particular county must be assessed for property taxes. The county tax assessor's office keeps public records of the value and location of all property within the assessor's jurisdiction for this purpose. These records include the title and deed. Look for any outstanding liens and other encumbrances.
Go to the county clerk's office or county courthouse in person. This is where titles and deeds are recorded. Using the information from the county tax assessor's office, search through these records for the specific property. The property tax records should provide a "book and page number", a reference to the precise legal description of the property. Officials at the county clerk's office or county courthouse should be able to assist you.
Search for confirmation that the property was properly and legally transferred from owner to owner. Establish the identity of the current owner and, most importantly, his rights to sell the property. Check if the current owner is married or divorced and whether either of them have enforceable rights over the property. Perform a background check on the seller's identity and confirm that the property has no encumbrances, such as a mortgage.
Check for tax liens or judgements filed against the owner of the property. Tax liens and judgements are public record and filed with the tax assessor's office by name. If tax liens or judgements are filed against the owner, they may have to be settled before you can take possession of the property.
Jennifer Allen obtained her Bachelor of Arts in economics and a Bachelor of Arts in political science, and has worked in finance since May 2006. She completed her Master of Arts in human resource management in December 2009. Allen has written a variety of articles that are published on various websites.