The Basics of Researching a Land Record

Association of Construction and Development
May 29, 2012 — 1,523 views  

The process of researching land records is essential for anyone who wants to purchase a piece of land. Land records will explain the history of a piece of property including previous owners, major renovations, deeds, mortgages and liens. Land records will also reveal the dimensions of the property to answer questions related to zoning and building codes.

Many county and city offices contain repositories of land records, as do some public libraries. The cost for researching land records is minimal; the office may charge a small fee for photocopies. Searches should start with the county courthouse, county records office or appropriate department at city hall. Most of these offices are staffed by personnel who will find and retrieve records.

Title companies can also research relevant land records. A professional title researcher can prepare a title abstract, which is a summary of the available records for a particular piece of land. Title search can also reveal inter-spousal claims regarding a piece of property, which will tell buyers whether the owners of the house are divorcing. The abstract will not contain legal advice or any sort of title opinion, but delegating research to a title company can make the process more convenient.

For someone considering a land purchase, a buyer’s agent can be a good resource. Buyer’s agents will have access to the MLS, the title company database and tax assessor data. With MLS access, a buyer’s agent can find out how long a piece of land has been on the market and also how many times the land has been listed for sale.

Many cities and counties now post their records online. For example, tax assessors’ records will list the owner’s name, the tax identification number or land parcel number, the amount of taxes and whether the taxes are paid in full. Assessors’ records can also provide the age of a building, the type of roof, the number of bedrooms and the square footage of the property.

Other websites also offer free information to consumers. While these websites will not provide the level of information available by researching land records, these listings can often provide a good starting place for research. Zillow and Trulia will provide a basic introduction to a property, including an aerial view of the land in question and values of the surrounding lots.

Association of Construction and Development