Doing Your Own Title Search
Doing Your Own Title Search
by Tony Youngs
When I first got into real estate, I started with foreclosures. I would contact the owners to see if they wanted to sell. If they did, I would ask them how much they owed and they would usually show me the latest letter from the bank showing the balance and arrears. Then I would ask them if they had any other liens on the property. They would usually say, not that I know of. Next, I would make an offer and set a closing date with an attorney or title company. However, after a few days or weeks, the closing attorney would inform me of additional liens that needed to be dealt with. It would sometimes kill the deal or cause some sort of delay or problem.
On future deals I would hire a freelancer to do a search for me prior to making an offer. There were times that they would contact me and say, this property has 3 mortgages, a federal tax lien, and 3 judgements, and, of course, I would not buy the house. But I still had to pay for the title search. The thought came to mind that I needed to learn how to do a title search myself. I went to my local real investors association to see if they knew where I could learn how to do this. At that time, they did not know of anyone. I met a paralegal that once told me that there was a class at the local community college that takes you to the courthouse records room and teaches you how to do court records. I took the course and it was one of the best things I did for my business growth.
Not only did it save me a lot of money, but it catapulted my success. For any homeowner that wanted to sell, I could quickly find everything recorded against the property; Federal tax liens, judgements, mechanic’s liens, and hospital liens. I would also find power of attorney and affidavits that contained information to help me negotiate win-win deals with the seller. The benefit of finding liens before you make the offer gives you a chance to contact the lien holders and offer to settle the liens at huge discounts, thus creating a better profit potential and a better purchase price. Most other investors would run from these deals because of the liens, however, I could turn a bad deal into a good deal.
When I tell folks about doing their own title search, they say no thank you, I want a professional to do it so I know for sure the title is good. Let me explain, I do my own to see what’s owed to help me negotiate a deal with the owner. Then I get it under contract and the contract has a paragraph stating if there are any liens discovered after the contract is signed, the seller must settle those liens or the contract is null and void. Then the title company does a professional search and lets you know before closing if there are liens. Then they offer you title insurance. So, ultimately, you are protected with all these layers.
Today, in most states, you can do a title search online from the comfort of your home. There are only a handful that charge a fee but if you go to the actual courthouse, you can always do it for free. If I am in a state that charges for online title searches, I will go to the courthouse. The way to find out if your courthouse is online, is to simply go to google, and put your county name first, then the state, then the words Register of Deeds. For example, “Fulton County GA register of deeds.” It is usually the first thing that comes up. The further down the list you go, you will be tapping into third party companies that charge money. Only click the first thing that pops up, then you will look for a button that says search records. Sometimes you have to accept a disclaimer before accessing the records. Once in, you can search by parcel number or owner’s name. I like to search by owner’s name. Some liens are recorded against a person’s name and does not show up if you search by Parcel number.
Each week when I go out and find off-market properties in the hidden market, I get so excited and can’t wait to get home and do a title search. It always keeps me a step ahead of the competition.
Tony Youngs is a national speaker, trainer, and active real estate investor who takes you by the hand in your own back yard to teach you how to be good at finding good deals. He can be reached through his website at www.tonyyoungs.com