Verifying property ownership is a fundamental part of real estate transactions, such as buying property, and generally a good idea whenever you need to be certain you are dealing with the property owner. You can verify ownership by reviewing public records, such as grant deeds, that list the current and past property owners. This is generally a reliable source of information, but it is not always accurate. If you need a professional verification of ownership, hire a title company to prepare a title abstract for the property.
Determine which level of local government is responsible for recording and maintaining real estate transactions and ownership records for the property that you want to verify ownership. In many states, this is a county-level government office, although in some states this is a city or town office.
Review the government recording office's website, if available, for information on how to access property ownership records. Some municipalities make this information available online, while others require an in-person visit to obtain this information. If there is no website available, you will have to obtain the information by phone or a visit to the office.
Search for the owner's name you want to verify in the recording office's index of property deeds to determine what real estate he owns. Although the type of deeds commonly used to transfer real estate ownership varies from state to state, in general, ownership is acquired using a general warranty deed, special warranty deed, grant deed or quitclaim deed. The name of the current property owner should be listed as the grantee -- that is, the person receiving title to the property -- in the latest recorded deed.
Obtain a title abstract for the property from a title company to provide you with the best assurance that you have accurate property ownership information. Title companies employ licensed title examiners who are trained to review public records to determine the current and past owners of a property, as well as any other claims affecting title to property such as unpaid tax liens and court judgments.
- Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk: Real Estate Records, Military Discharges & UCC Financing Statement
- San Diego County Recorder's Office: Search Grantor/Grantee Index
- US Land Records
- American Bar Association: Understanding Real Property Interests and Deeds
- RSI Title: What Does a Title Company Do?
- National Association of Land Title Examiners and Abstractors: Searcher -- Abstractor -- Examiner
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