Sometimes, you want to find out who owns your apartment, or maybe an apartment in your neighborhood. Maybe the property management company isn’t taking care of it, and you want to contact the property owner as a renter or someone who lives in the neighborhood. Maybe you want to know how much the adorable cottage one street over costs, in case you want to buy it — or one just like it — someday. Or maybe mail has been piling up in a neighboring house, and you’re wondering whom to contact.
There are multiple ways to find out who owns apartments and homes. Some are simple and free. Others may be more complicated. Many vary by area, as some local governments make information transparent, while others have laws against making information too transparent.
Here are six methods of finding out who owns a property.
Asking people is the simplest method, and the least expensive. If you want to know who owns an occupied property, ask the person living there! Asking other neighbors is also an option. If a property company oversees it, ask the managers there. Though they may not be if lack of maintenance is the problem.
All property has taxes assessed on it. The local tax assessor’s office will have a record of ownership for properties in its jurisdiction. Depending on the local laws and structure, it could be the tax assessor in your city, your county or even your state.
While some jurisdictions post this information online, others require the property owner to give written permission to post the information. Without such permission, you won’t be able to find the owner online. The information is public, though, so a trip to the tax assessor’s office and a discussion with clerks there will yield the information.
Transfers of property are also public information. This is also done through a branch of local government. An entity will record property transfers, such as sales, and issue deeds of ownership. In some place, this office is called the recorder’s office. In others, the public entity might be known as the registrar of deeds. They will have official records about the most recent owner.
These offices are often a subset of city or county government. As a result, they are often physically located where city or county government is. Check or call city hall or the county courthouse to find the location of the appropriate entity for your locale. These offices often have public access terminals to look up who the most recent legal owner of a property is.
While tax and property records exist, it’s possible a trip to the local municipality’s offices isn’t feasible for you. Many are only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and while county and city offices are centrally located, you may not be.
If so, the next option is to find what are known as auditor materials. These are records from the most recent census and voting records. Many local libraries have these. Reference librarians in your local library can also be an invaluable source of information on what records live where, as well. Bear in mind, though, that the census takes place every 10 years. If the owners have changed within that time, the census may not be correct about who owns the building. Similarly, voting records are only complete and accurate if the owner has registered to vote.
There is nothing wrong with a simple Google search. Try “owner of [full address]” and see what comes up. You may hit the current owner. Of course, you may also get out-of-date information or owners of a similar address, but your investment of time in performing a Google search is minimal. It can’t hurt.
In addition, many websites dedicated to real estate aggregate data on ownership from multiple sources. Most of this information is free. Try Zillow, Trulia and Realtor for starters. Here, too, the information may be incomplete or outdated — but you also may hit pay dirt.
At times, public information may give you an ownership company or an entity that doesn’t give you anyone to reach. In these cases, it’s possible the owner prefers to remain anonymous.
In those cases, you might consider hiring a private investigator. While this can be pricey, private investigators are skilled at unearthing hidden information. Many work comfortably with city offices and the police.
Want to find out who owns your or a neighboring building? There are many ways, from combing through public records to doing a Google search to hiring a private investigator. Keep searching, and you’ll find out.