Property titles and liens on a property are part of public records. The county courthouse or city hall in the county or town where the property is located records and maintains public property records. By reviewing the public records on a property, you can perform a title or lien search to identify all of the current and past owners of the property, as well as any liens or mortgages that are on the property.
Contact the county courthouse records department. Speak with a representative to find out what your options are for searching their records. The two primary options are to search the records online or to search the hard copy files in the courthouse or area where the public records are housed. If you can conduct an online search, ask for the web address where you can enter your search criteria.
Search property records online or in person. If you can access the records through the county website, pull up the site and find the option to search the property records. Enter the search criteria you have for the property. When the property documents list appears, review each document to determine ownership, such as copies of deeds or titles to the property, and liens and mortgage records.
Create a time line. Go through the documents in chronological order to track when ownership was established and transferred. Create a time line on a sheet of paper or make notes so that you can illustrate each transaction. Do the same for any mortgages or liens on the property. With mortgages or liens, track the date each was established and the date each was paid off so that you can identify any liens or mortgages that still exist on the property.
A less time-consuming option for performing a title or lien search is to hire a title company or real estate attorney to conduct the search for you. While this option does save time, it also costs you money. Title and lien search fees vary from title company to title company. The cost may be a couple hundred of dollars or more. Ask about the cost before agreeing to hire any company.
Kristie Lorette started writing professionally in 1996. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in marketing and multinational business from Florida State University and a Master of Business Administration from Nova Southeastern University. Her work has appeared online at Bill Savings, Money Smart Life and Mortgage Loan.