How to complete a free search for a title on a property & for public records

Written by heather hanlon
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How to complete a free search for a title on a property & for public records
Title of property in the United States is usually recorded at the county level. (form -3 image by Rog999 from

Title, or ownership, of property is a matter of public record in most states in the United States. Recording of title is typically done at the county level, and in many counties, you can access these public records online.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Contact the county clerk's office where you plan to research title. Ask where they keep public records on title transfer and ownership.

  2. 2

    Ask what browser(s) are supported by the county, if you can look online for properties. Some software used by counties is not supported on certain browsers.

  3. 3

    Look up, using the resources provided by the county, the property for which you wish to search title. Many counties allow you to search by owner name, legal description of property, recording number or other characteristics. Talk to your county clerk about search options.

  4. 4

    Download the title details. Sometimes, they will be an HTML file viewable through the Web application the county provides. Others will be a PDF file that you will need to download, generally by clicking the available link to access the file and saving it to your desktop. Open PDFs using Adobe Reader.

Tips and warnings

  • Finding information on a current title for a property is vastly different than searching for title history or understanding encumbrances to title. When a house is bought and sold, a title company does a complete search of the history of the property, including such features as surveys, boundaries, plats, easements, structures and permits. You cannot assume that because someone owns title on a property, there are not any encumbrances to it. A property cannot be sold in most states without a complete title search and title insurance.

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