How To Find The Owner of a Property

Mar 31st 2021
It’s not all that uncommon for potential buyers to express interest in a vacant property that doesn’t have a residing owner. This presents some minor issues, as you will obviously need to locate whoever holds the deed to the property to make an offer to purchase it. There are also many other reasons you might want to find a property owner, such as learning everything there is to know about the property and whether or not it has a clean title. But if the owner isn’t living there and you can’t find any contact information, how do you track them down to ask these questions?

Your search may be slightly more complicated than if the owner was living in the property, but all in all, tracking down a property owner isn’t too difficult to do. Problems with locating an owner may arise if, for example, the property has been handed down for numerous generations or there are improper title records. However, there are a few fairly straightforward steps you can take to track down a property owner.

hash-markAsk The Neighbors

If you’re already in the neighborhood to see the property, you can ask around to see if anyone knows the owner. You may not feel comfortable knocking on doors, but it might be a good idea. You could end up nipping your search in the bud before it’s ever even started. There’s a chance that neighbors who have lived close by for a while might have contact information for the property owner. What’s more, if the circumstances under which the property was vacated were less than ideal or a bit dramatic, neighbors might be in the loop and have a name or a phone number for the owner. 

hash-markTry an Online Search

Of course, the internet can be an invaluable resource under these types of circumstances. An internet search may uncover exactly what you’re looking for with very little effort. It’s free, it’s straightforward, but just performing a Google search probably won’t turn up results, at least not without some serious digging. 

The best place to look first is the Tax Assessor’s website for whichever county the property resides in. Of course, this website lists important tax information regarding the property, but they will also likely have on file each change of ownership and a mailing address for the current owner. 

There are also some websites that allow you to search for property information without the help of a realtor, but be prepared to provide some personal information if this is the route you choose to take. 

hash-markDo a Deep Dive into Tax Records

If the search for records from the Tax Assessor website isn’t fruitful in their results, you may wish to visit the Tax Assessor’s office in person. Here, you should be able to search through the property’s tax records in order to determine the current owner. It’s also worth considering that some smaller county Tax Assessors may not have very user-friendly websites or any website at all, so a visit to the office may be necessary.

hash-markSearch Using the Title or Deed Information

A visit to the county clerk’s office is a pretty surefire way to track down the property owner. Here, there is a myriad of information stored about every single property within the county’s limits, and the property you’re interested in will be no exception. Included in the detailed information about the property should be the name and contact information of the current owner. But in order to access county records, you will need to bring a few things with you:

  • Know the exact address of the property. You’ll only be able to access the correct records if you know the proper address in its entirety. 
  • Be ready to pay a fee, particularly if you require any certified copies of records. If you’re dealing with a very small county office, it may be a good idea to call ahead and check what payment methods they’re able to take.
  • Call and ask what you need to bring with you. You’ll likely need some form of photo identification, and some county clerk offices may require an affidavit to view records.

There are times when an agency such as the county clerk’s office has the information you are looking for but cannot provide it to you for legal reasons. If this is the case, you’ll need to be prepared to make a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request. The Freedom of Information Act enables the public to access federal agency records under certain circumstances. You can visit the Department of Justice website to submit an FOIA request. 

Although it may be a bit of a nuisance to track down an MIA property owner, it’s not as difficult as many people think. Often, interested buyers are put off from pursuing a property because the owner isn’t present, and they don’t know how simple it is to track them down. Sure, it might take a little extra time and effort, but it could be well worth it in the end.