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How to Search for Property Deeds

by Alexander Harris, studioD

Property deeds are public records, and you can access them easily if you know where to find them. In most localities, deed records are searchable by using a computer and you can instantly review and print a digital copy.

Confirm where property deed records are kept in your locality. Most of the time you can find deed records at the clerk's office of the circuit court where the property is located. In some places deed records are kept at the comptroller's or recorder's offices. Some localities allow you to search deeds online from anywhere but often require you to register and sometimes a paid subscription is required. If you intend to search property deeds on a regular basis, a subscription might save you time going to the courthouse over and over again. Otherwise, save your money and head to the clerk's office to conduct a one time search.

Identify the name of the property owner. You won't be able to search by address when searching deeds at the records office because they are not typically indexed that way. On the deed the property owner will be identified as the grantee, which is the person receiving title to the property. The most effective way to find the owner's name is by searching local property tax records. In most localities this information is searchable on the local government website for free, if not head to the tax assessor's office in person. Conduct a search by address to find the property tax record that includes the owner's name and other important information. Also included on the record will be the previous owner's name. On the deed this person will be identified as the grantor, which is the person transferring title of the property to the grantee. It is a good idea to have this information as well in case there is a misspelling or other error with the current owner's name.

Obtain the book and page number for the property you are searching for. When deeds are recorded, they are assigned a book and page number which is used by the record office to locate the deed when it needs to be retrieved. In many cases the book and page number will also be found within the property tax record. If the book and page number is nowhere to be found in the property tax record, try searching the county Geographic Information System map for the map you are researching. The GIS system is maintained by the county land use department. Once you find the property on the map, click on the parcel to view property information which should include the book and page number. Having both the owner's name and the book and page number ensures that your deed search does not come up empty. If the name is misspelled or a typographical error is in the book and page number, you will still be able to locate the deed using the other piece of information.

Visit the appropriate records office with the party names and book and page number relevant to the property you are searching for. Use the computer at the records office to search for the deed. Many offices allow you to print a copy from the computer, while others may require a clerk to retrieve it for you and make a copy.

About the Author

Currently living in Austin, Texas, Alexander Harris is a business journalist covering the self storage industry for SpareFoot.com and SelfStorage.com. Harris previously wrote daily news for RichmondBizSense.com, a business journal in his hometown of Richmond, Va. His work has appeared in various other publications including "Philadelphia Citypaper," Stateline.org, "RVA Magazine" and the "Virginian-Pilot." Harris holds a mass communications degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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