If you are planning to buy a specific piece of private property or simply would like to know who owns that abandoned lot in your neighborhood, then you will want to verify property ownership. Real estate information is a matter of public record, but knowing how to get at that information is critical to verifying property ownership.
Determine the property's address. Look to see if the street address is posted on the building or house, or on the mailbox.
If you can't determine the address, make sure you can find the location on a map. A visit to Google Maps (maps.google.com), using the "street view" feature to spot the property using photos taken along the roadside, may in some cases help you here. If you don't know the address, being able to find the property on a map will be useful at the tax assessor's office.
Visit the tax assessor's office. The local tax assessor's office may be in the town hall, or in the county office building. Call the town hall to find out. Visit the tax assessor's office and ask the clerk for help in determining property ownership. Give the clerk the address to obtain the corresponding file.
If all you have is a location on a map, pull out the tax assessor's tax maps and find the location. The map will provide you a lot or parcel number for the property.
Once the lot number has been identified, then a search of tax records can begin. Tax records are documents that indicate by lot or parcel number who owns the property; each property has its own file and it's those files you want to access.
This step may be all that you need to take in order to verify property ownership, particularly if you are just curious as to who owns it.
Commence a title search. If you are interested in purchasing the property, tax records alone are not enough to verify property ownership. A title search will confirm if the owner has a marketable stake in the property as well as uncover possible liens, restrictions, encroachments, or easements which can affect the property's value.
You can contact a title insurance company that will conduct a search on your behalf to confirm ownership. Fees for a search vary, but expect it to cost at least $100, and much more if the property's ownership can be traced back for many years.
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