How to find the legal owner of a property with public records

Written by erika becklin
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How to find the legal owner of a property with public records
Property records are available online through the county tax collector's office. (file image by Byron Moore from Fotolia.com)

You can find the legal owner of a property for free by searching public records online. Public access to property records is available through local county tax collectors' offices. Don't pay for a search or subscribe to a third party when this information can be found with no more effort and directly from the source.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Find the county tax collector's website where the property is located. Use a directory like naco.org or netronline.com, as recommended by Poynter Online contributer Jonathan Dube. With netronline.com, access the Public Records Online directory to find the county sites with property records online. For NACo.com, search using the Find a County feature.

    How to find the legal owner of a property with public records
    Go to the county tax assessor's website. (search icon image by rgbspace from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Choose the state and county within these directories to bring up the county's web address. Click on the link for the county or tax assessor's website. This will take you to the official county government site where you can look up the property record.

  3. 3

    Click on the link for property records, online services, property search or similar link. County websites have different names for these links, but there should be something similar to those mentioned. This will take you to a search page where you can search by address, name or parcel.

  4. 4

    Search for the address by filling in the boxes with the street number, street name and street direction. Leave unknown sections blank, such as the owner's name. If you don't have the complete address, type in the street name and a list of all properties on that street will come up.

    How to find the legal owner of a property with public records
    Type in the address on the property search page to find the owner. (laptop with database record on 15.4" wide screen image by .shock from Fotolia.com)
  5. 5

    Click on the address of interest to pull up the property record. The name of the property owner(s) will be listed on the record.

Tips and warnings

  • Some websites are more difficult to navigate than others. These sites may take you through a few screens before reaching the actual search page.
  • The websites and terminology will vary slightly from state to state and county to county. Assessor, tax collector and appraiser are interchangeable.
  • Links for property record searches may be under property search, property records, online records or something similar to these.

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