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How to Search Public Records for Homeownership

by Anna Assad, studioD

Whether you're interested in buying a house, doing family research or want to report a home to authorities because of illegal activity or neglect, knowing the owner's name is crucial. You may use county real estate records to determine homeownership because the transactions become a matter of public record. You can get the name of the most recent owner from the county office that is tasked with collected taxes, such as the county treasurer. Since the treasurer is sometimes behind in recording recent transactions, you can use the information from that office in combination with other county records.

Visit the official website of the property tax collector's office for the home's municipality, such as city or town. Some tax collectors offices have information, including the current owner's name, available online -- all you need is a property address. Contact the office by phone for the information if it isn't available online. Write down the owner's name.

Visit the official website of the county tax assessment office if you can't get a name from the tax collector's office. Some county assessment departments have ownership information online. Again, all you need is a property address to complete the search. Contact the department by phone if the information isn't available on the web.

Visit the official website of the property's county to see if land records are available for searching online. The county recorder or clerk may maintain the land records. Search the land records using the name the tax office gave you as the current owner to see if the home has since been sold. A recently filed deed will usually show the new owner as the grantee, second party or party of the second party. Follow the county's online search instructions to use the system, as set-ups vary by county.

Visit the county land records department in person if the information isn't online. Bring the home address and owner's name with you. Ask the land records clerk for directions on searching a current owner, as systems differ by county. Some counties have electronic search databases, while others use a book-index system. Under a book system, you'll have to search through alphabetized indexes of real estate activity by a specific search criteria, usually the last known owner's surname.


  • Some counties charge for land records access online. You may need to physically visit the office to search for free.

About the Author

Anna Assad began writing professionally in 1999 and has published several legal articles for various websites. She has an extensive real estate and criminal legal background. She also tutored in English for nearly eight years, attended Buffalo State College for paralegal studies and accounting, and minored in English literature, receiving a Bachelor of Arts.

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