Real Estate

A Practical Guide to Find the Legitimate Owner of a Property

A Practical Guide to Find the Legitimate Owner of a Property
A Practical Guide to Find the Legitimate Owner of a Property

Are you looking to move into a new neighborhood and want to know whether a property you like is in the market? Are you a real estate agent searching for potential homeowners who would like to list their properties? Or have you been running delivery errands and wondering how to get in touch with the owner of a delivery address? If you want to find the legitimate owner of a property, there are various information sources you can access, from the local deeds registry to background search sites such as Nuwber. However, this will all depend on how much information you want, the amount of time you have in your hands, and how valuable the information is for you.

In this article, we will take you through some of the most practical and effective ways you could find out about property owners with a step-by-step guide for easy reference.

But first, let’s look at why you would want to find the legitimate owner of a property and how this information would be useful for you.

 

Why find the legitimate owner of a property?

There are several reasons why you would want to search for the legal owner of a particular house or land. And some of these might not even be so apparent to you at first glance. So, here are the 2 most common motives to search for information about property owners.

 

  1. Safety and security

If you are looking to rent an apartment or a house, you would want to run a background check on the owners of the property before handing over a security deposit. It is just as important as the landlord running a background check of a potential tenant. This is because you first need to verify whether the person you are dealing with is the legitimate owner of the house or apartment. The last thing you want to find out a few days after moving in is that you have handed over your hard-earned money to a fraudster. Con artists could easily pose as the owner of an unoccupied property without the knowledge or consent of the true owner. And many unsuspecting tenants have lost millions of dollars from this type of fraud in the past. After all, forging documents these days is much easier than you would imagine.

And if the person you are dealing with is the true legal owner of the property, you would still want to know more about your future landlord before you make a financial commitment. For instance, apart from verifying the legal ownership, you might want to know about their financial status, mortgages taken on the property, and whether they have any criminal records. Having all this information will give you the peace of mind of knowing who you are dealing with.

After all, moving house is both a time-consuming and costly affair. Therefore, ensuring that all background checks are done before putting your signature on the dotted line is an important step to assure your safety.

And, also follow these steps when you are purchasing a property or even when planning to use Airbnb accommodation. Because you cannot take a chance on your safety.

 

  1. Financial or transactional reasons

Another reason why you may want to find the legitimate owner of a property is due to financial reasons. For instance, there might be a stunning property in a quiet neighborhood that you would like to purchase. And if you want to find out whether the property is up for sale, you will first need to know about its present owner, the property history, and details of any previous owners.

Or you could even be a real estate agent hunting for potential homeowners in attractive suburban neighborhoods to list their properties. Or your client would have requested you to inquire about a particular estate. On the other hand, you could be searching for an owner of an abandoned and run-down house that is likely to bring down the property value of the neighborhood. All these reasons would lead you to start hunting for the legal owners.

So, whatever your reasons may be for finding the legitimate owner of a property, here are 6 essential steps to help you with your search. You can select the best options for your specific situation based on the depth of information you require and the urgency of your requirement.

 

  1. Ask around

The easiest first step to find the legitimate owner of a property is to approach the neighbors. Simply introduce yourself and explain why you are attempting to contact the owner. Many people would often accommodate a request for information once they understand that your inquiry is driven by genuine motives.

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And often in suburbs, people within the community would even be able to share details about the history of the property, previous owners, and any other useful information. They might also help you out with contact details of the current owner.

However, if your requirement is to access information discreetly, then this might not be the best option for you. For instance, if you are looking to rent a particular property, you would not want to get a reference about future landlords from a neighbor unless you want to run the risk of them finding out. Another thing to remember is that this may not be so effective in urban areas. Urban occupants rarely interact with neighbors and would be reluctant to divulge information to strangers.

Having said that, this is still an easy, simple, and quick way to get access to reliable information. And if you are looking to buy the property, it will also help you to get to know other residents of the immediate community.

 

  1. Use Google

If you manage to find the full name of the potential property owner, the next step should be to do a Google search. With trillions of web pages indexed by Google, this is the best place to start any type of information search. It’s fast, convenient and if there is any information online relating to your query, it will be displayed in less than a second.

So, simply type in the full name within quotation marks and the search engine will list the results in the order of relevance as ranked by its algorithms. And if you also have the address or a contact number, then type it in together with the full name and click search. This will help you to further refine your search.

You might also want to try several different search terms as shown below.

“John Doe, (212) 888 8888”

“John Doe”, “(212) 888 8888”

“John Doe”, “(212) 888 8888”, Manhattan

The more information you have, the more you should include them in your search query. This will help refine the search results, giving you the best matching information so you don’t need to waste time sifting through countless search result pages.

And what type of information can Google provide you? They can list down any online resources that have terms similar to your search query. This can include social media profiles, news stories, blogs, any business websites, and even videos and images. In simple terms, Google’s algorithms will filter and display any resource that has your search phrase. But not only that, it will even allow you to perform reverse searches by, for example, using the property address. And if there is any information available online relating to it, rest assured that Google will retrieve it for you.

However, if all you have is a name, this means Google will list down information of anyone with that specific name. This could mean millions of web pages for you to go through. Therefore, for Google to make your life easier, you will need to make Google’s life easier by using as many related search terms as possible. For example, if you enter the full name together with the address or ZIP code, then Google will first display online resources that contain both of those details. This makes the results more relevant for your specific search query.

However, this doesn’t always guarantee results. For instance, there might not be any publicly accessible information about the property online. Or the property owner could keep their social profiles private, making it impossible for search engines to display those details.

Having said that, search engines such as Google are free and convenient tools that are easy to use and accessible to anyone. Even if it doesn’t help you find the legitimate owner of a property, it could still lead you to some valuable clues. So, give it a try before proceeding to the next steps.

 

  1. Use a background search site

There’s a reason why background search sites have rapidly grown in popularity. That’s because they provide a fast and convenient solution to gain access to a large amount of information on just about anyone.

Today’s data-driven economy has made it impossible to escape data aggregators. They collect and organize personal information of millions of people to create large-scale databases. And advanced technology and AI have enabled them to link each piece of information gathered from hundreds of sources so they could create profiles for each individual. This is how people search sites perform background searches and retrieve relevant profiles from their massive databases within seconds. Therefore, these sites are a perfect solution if you want to find the legitimate owner of a property that is of interest to you.

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So, what makes them different from a Google search? To begin with, search engines often access publicly available free online sources. However, people search sites have access to a large amount of both online and offline information sources that are free and paid for. These can include social media profiles, media news as well as public records such as property records, voter registration records, and marriage licenses. This naturally means that people search sites will be able to provide you with much more relevant information than a search engine.

And what type of information can they provide you? These sites can help you with a large amount of useful information that can include contact details of the owner, any other properties they own, mortgages, and professional details. You can even check for any criminal records and financial details to assess whether it is prudent to do business with them.

Not only that, but you can also carry out a reverse search using the property address. This will help you identify any information associated with it, such as previous owners and mortgages. It could also help you uncover details that could be useful to find the legitimate owner of a property.

However, unlike the free search engines, background search sites will charge you a fee to access more in-depth information. This is because they liaise with various paid information services to retrieve data for you. Therefore, before you resort to a background search site, carefully evaluate the type of information you require and the urgency and importance of your specific search purpose. This will help you determine whether to choose the free information provided by these sites or to register for their more comprehensive paid services.

All in all, these people search sites are a perfect tool to access highly reliable and in-depth information anonymously.

 

  1. Check the local Deeds Registry

If you are intent on doing a bit of investigation on your own without spending much money, then the local Deeds Registry would be a great place to start.

Also called the Recorder of Deeds, this is a government office that could serve as a more accurate source of information to find the legitimate owner of a property. Depending on the area, this responsibility could also lie with the local county clerk. They maintain a regularly updated set of documents related to the property’s legal ownership. This could be in both hard copy and soft copy versions and can include deeds, mortgages, and plats. And these details are accessible to anyone looking to purchase a property or searching for information for any other purpose.

Many of this information has also been transferred to online databases, making it possible for you to verify or check details on their websites. Overall, the local Deeds Registry makes a valuable data source for reliable and legitimate information about a property’s history, previous ownership details as well as the present owners.

However, one thing to remember is that this information source may vary from country to country. For instance, if the property is in the UK, you might want to check the Land Registry. So, find out the equivalent in your specific region and schedule a visit or check online.

Another important point to consider is that the amount of available data could also vary among countries. This is because many countries are still in the early stages of accurately mapping private properties. Nevertheless, it’s still worth giving it a try since chances are that the information they could provide is more reliable and detailed than what you may find with a simple Google search.

 

  1. Use a property search tool

There are certain websites such as US Realty Records that specialize in providing property-related information. And they could quickly retrieve a range of useful information for you to find the legitimate owner of a property. Together with the owner’s name and contact number, they could also help you uncover details about previous owners and mortgage history. But in addition to all this, many of these websites could provide you with specific property details such as the number of rooms, the year it was built, square footage, and even photographs. And depending on the website you select, they can also provide details of zoning, sales history, property taxes, property value, and the likes.

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All this information makes these websites a convenient option to carry out a preliminary background search. These websites collate information from various sources to create extensive property databases. They also continuously update their records to provide you with the most up-to-date data.

However, there are a few things to consider before you opt for their services. First, there is no guarantee that these property search sites would have information about the particular property you are interested in. While the larger sites operate with massive databases, they are not comprehensive enough to capture every property in the country. And some of them would have a regional specialization. This means that they will only hold information about properties in specific regions. Therefore, you may need to sift through several of the large-scale property search sites to find the legitimate owner of a property.

And unlike people search sites, the information provided by these websites are limited and will purely refer to the property and its ownership details. Moreover, many of these websites charge a fee for their services. Therefore, you will first need to assess how important this information is to you before you choose to proceed.

Having said that, if you decide to opt for a specialized property search website, they can be a fast and convenient solution to gain access to some valuable information.

 

  1. Visit the local tax assessment office

The local tax assessment office is another useful public office that could help you find the legitimate owner of a property you are interested in. This is because all properties are charged with taxes and, therefore, the local tax payment records could easily reveal the name and contact details of the legal owners.

And the best part is that these public records can be easily accessed by using the property address. Therefore, find out where the local tax assessment office is located and plan a visit. Alternatively, you can also go to their website and check whether details relating to the specific area are available online. Many local public offices have uploaded their directories online now, and this can save you a time-consuming trip to the tax assessment office.

 

So, if you are looking to get hold of a property owner, these practical steps will help you get access to a range of useful information to help you with your quest. However, they may not all be helpful for your particular purpose. Therefore, be mindful of their differences and carefully assess their advantages and limitations. And also evaluate the amount of information you would realistically require and how urgently you need them. Consider any other sensitivities relating to your search such as the importance of maintaining your anonymity.

While all these techniques and tools will help you carry out your own search, you should also remember that you can choose to get professional help. While doing your own detective work could be so much more fun than delegating the task to a professional, you need to assess the specific advantages of getting a professional involved.

The most important benefit of hiring a private investigator is that they are specifically trained in these tasks. Therefore, they stand a better chance of unearthing valuable information much faster. They have specialized skills and experience in background searches and will also have a strong network, which could pass useful information needed for the investigation. However, ensure that you are clear about what information you require and what you expect from them. Select a private investigator who could deliver results and would maintain confidentiality. Also, seek recommendations from others who may have used similar services.

While the benefits of using a personal investigator are quite convincing, they do come at a cost and their service charges could be considerably expensive. Therefore, the information they could uncover should be of significant value to you in order to justify the fee. And if the details you require can be accessible by other means or they are not that critical for your specific purpose, then it’s best to opt-out of this option.

In the end, whatever the option you choose to help you find the legitimate owner of a property, ensure that you are discreet and apply adequate safety measures. Also, be respectful towards the property owner’s privacy, and avoid accessing unnecessary personal details if they don’t serve a useful purpose for you.

 

About the author

Venkatesan Prabu

Venkatesan Prabu

Wikitechy Founder, Author, International Speaker, and Job Consultant. My role as the CEO of Wikitechy, I help businesses build their next generation digital platforms and help with their product innovation and growth strategy. I'm a frequent speaker at tech conferences and events.

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