Property Lien Search: How to Find out if there are Liens on a Property

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I was talking to a friend who was looking at purchasing a piece of property. He was nervous because it was to be his first home and asked me about liens and doing a property lien search.

How Do I Find Out if there are Any Liens on a Property?

The answer is pretty straight forward. For the most part, liens are a matter of public record once recorded. To find if there are any liens, here are your options:

  • Search the county recorder, clerk, or assessors office online. All you need is the name of the property owner, or it’s address. If your county does not have the data online, then:
  • Visit the county recorder, clerk, or assessor’s office in person. Generally, you will find that these people will be quite helpful, and could give you pointers if you need any.
  • Contact a title company. Title representatives can be extremely helpful in many ways . . . finding liens is one of them. I strongly advise having a good title rep as part of your investing team!

With that in mind, Title Insurance is there to protect you as the buyer from liens you did not expect such as last minute liens, or those that may not have been known or recorded. Like other insurance, they will write a check to deal with the liens if they are missed. If you want to protect yourself from any potential liens, you want to be sure to purchase an owner’s policy. It is an owner’s title policy, not a lender’s policy that protects the buyer of the property.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t count on the word of the seller or even your real estate agent, as they may not necessarily know about all liens or possible defects in the title.

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About Author

Joshua Dorkin (@jrdorkin, Google+) is the founder and CEO of BiggerPockets.

27 Comments

  1. I am in Chicago and there are excellent sites that I use all the time in analyzing a property to look for liens and even existing mortgages. Contact me if you want to know the sites I use plus a lot more.

  2. Hello,

    My question is if there is a lien on my property but that same lien is being garnished from my pay, can the lien be removed due to the garnishment?

    If not what are the alternatives to have this lien removed?

    My concerns are if my home was to sell will I be refunded back all that was taken from garnishment?

    Can this company that placed the lien continue to add interest and other penalties while recieving the garnishment or increase the lien amount?

    Your assistant would be of great help.

  3. Suzanne Horvath on

    How can I find out if the borrower has paid down any of the liens (mortgage and HELOC)? The county records show the original amounts that were recorded, but I need to know if there is now enough equity to foreclose on the collateral.

  4. RE: “I am in Chicago and there are excellent sites that I use all the time in analyzing a property to look for liens and even existing mortgages. Contact me if you want to know the sites I use plus a lot more.”

    Ryan, would you let me what those site are? My family still lives in Chicago.

    Thanks,

    Jose

  5. Hello all,

    Cooks Assessor website as well as Cook Registry of Deeds website as well. However, the registry of deeds website is not free, so if you are not proffessional searcher, you will end up paying to check on lien documents [ad removed]

    Good luck!
    Alex

  6. Yes but there is a lien on my property and it’s recorded in another county 4 states away and it doesn’t show up on my county records. How can I search for liens on my property applied by all the states?
    I heard there was a data base where I could access that. Any help would be appreciated

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  9. Can you please help me to Search the county recorder, clerk, or assessors office online. I am not good with internet.

    Or a direct to link to those websites will be appreciated.

  10. Ive searched the local assessors office site and found no information on liens or such on a property i am looking into purchasing at a forclosure auction at the end of Oct. Is there anyway to find out if there are any liens without having to pay for it. I would hate to pay and find out there arent any and thats why i cant find anything or pay the money and find out theres to much in leins making it not worth bidding on.

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  12. It seems like most places you can search the county recorder, clerk, or assessors online most of the time and i agree it’s best to have title insurance just to protect yourself..good info

  13. my father bought a building and it has lean but i wounld like to get a loan on the house how can i do this or what do i need to do .also he is past away but he had it as a corp.

  14. Neil Mc Dannel on

    Ok when I get to the Real Estate Records, Assossers Records, County Records where on that site do I find out about homes with Leins ?
    Don’t know a lot about buying leins but realy want to get into how to do it and do ot the right way if u can help that would nice and it would help me out on my first steps thank u. Again Neil Mc Dannel

  15. Hello

    I was able to find out the lien records from the County. How does one know what is the oustanding debt? Also is it possible that a lien exists on the property but is not recorded in the county records.

    Thanks
    Inder

  16. An easy way to obtain a Lien Search is thru ProtitleUSA. They offer a Judgment and Lien search where they provide all the liens and Judgments on a property. They also offer different title searches where they provide all Judgments, Liens, Mortgages,Taxes and The Chain of Title. Their website is http://www.ProtitleUSA.com

  17. What process is normally in place to remove unsubstantiated liens or rather how can they be challenged? Also, if a Lender is acquired by another company…are they required to submit an updated Lien document to the Recorder as the new lender or is this legally assumed as the new parent company of any previous liens? Thanks-Brian

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