Real Estate Investing Basics

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

Expertise: Real Estate Marketing, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Investing Basics, Landlording & Rental Properties, Flipping Houses, Personal Finance, Business Management
301 Articles Written
How to Find Liens
Recently, I was talking to a friend who was looking at purchasing a piece of property. He was nervous because it was going to be his first home and he asked me about liens and doing a property lien search. His concern for liens against his property is valid – liens can hinder your ability [...] View the full article: Property Lien Search: How to Find out if there are Liens on a Property on on The BiggerPockets Blog. This content is Copyright © 2015 BiggerPockets, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Joshua Dorkin is a serial entrepreneur, investor, podcaster, publisher, educator, and co-author of How to Invest in Real Estate. He started BiggerPockets to help democratize the real estate investing landscape for himself and others, aiming to make it accessible for everyone, regardless of income or education. Today, BiggerPockets is the premier real estate investing website online with over one million members and reaching over 70 million people with the message of financial freedom through real estate investing. Joshua, along with his wife and three daughters, make their home in Denver, Colorado, and spend any time they can traveling, exploring, and adventuring. Read more about Joshua’s story in 5280 and

    Randy Phillips Wholesaler from Clovis, California
    Replied over 3 years ago
    A very informative article. I’ve had liens screw up a few of my deals. On one property the liens were many years old from family members that had since passed away. The Title company suggested the seller get a bond, some kind of insurance that will pay out in case a heir makes a future claim. However the bonding company required the seller to have some decent credit, which they didn’t. I finally gave up on that property. Some liens are paid out of the sellers proceeds and some the buyer will pay or I agree to pay if seller is unwilling and their is enuf profit in the deal. Finding them is not a problem, they always turn up when the Title company does their Pre-Lim search. When I do find a great property, it’s a great feeling when no liens turn up. Let’s make some Money… Rando
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Even if you search the county recorder, clerk, or assessor’s office online, you should probably also go in person. Their online system has substantially less info than the computer in their brick-and-mortar place. Online at home is great for a first pass. Remember, too that even counties with online capability often have only the past thirty years or less available. You may need to search further back.
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Katie is right, in some counties you have to go to the register of deeds or clerks office for judgements. I suggest getting a professional if you are not sure, and if you do several a year you can work out a volume price with a local attorney. If you only buy through mortgage lenders that is one thing but if your paying cash or have a private lender you must be aware.
    Susan Maneck Investor from Jackson, Mississippi
    Replied over 3 years ago
    I’m a little confused. Isn’t it the Title Company’s job to check for liens?
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied over 3 years ago
    Yes, but you will likely want to do your own homework as well especially when you are planning to buy at auction. Personally, I like to do as much due diligence as I can before I make an offer.
    Adam Treece
    Replied over 1 year ago
    I know this is an old post, but I do plan on going to an auction and found this all very helpful. I’ve made several land deals and ALWAYS get title insurance and have the title company do a title search. The title search can cost $250 per property through the title company and I am researching 21 properties in one county alone before the auction, so I will do the research myself at the local County Clerk’s office.
    Jason Woods Rental Property Investor from Bellevue, Washington
    Replied about 1 year ago
    For lien you don’t need to spend $250 for a title search, you can order one of the lien report from online providers,, the data is from title company and can tell you the lien on the property.
    Flor Semhat from Houston, Texas
    Replied about 3 years ago
    What kind of search should I ask the title company i need to get the best results and getting the best information as far as clean title or not a clean title. Any advise will help. Thank you
    Jason Krejci from Shawnee Mission, Kansas
    Replied over 3 years ago
    As part of my job with the IRS I spend a lot of time at courthouses. As Katie said some counties will have info online and some will not. Some counties I work don’t even have the info digitally at all. I have found the best thing to do if you are not sure how to complete your search is to ask an employee at the recorder/register of deeds. They know all the little tips and tricks and I have had great luck getting help when I need be. It isn’t uncommon for even title companies to make a mistake. Just make sure you follow the chain of title by doing a search on the piece of property itself as well as a name search for any individuals who have had an interest in the property. Also search variations of the name such as searching John Doe as well as J Doe.
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied over 3 years ago
    You are right. You would be amazed at the number of possible variations on a SINGLE name and they all turn out to be the same person. In California you have to be especially careful because of Hispanic names. The person might record under mother’s surname, or father’s surname, or both with a hyphen, or both without a hyphen, or both reversed, hyphen or not, never mind initials and abbreviations.
    Flor Semhat from Houston, Texas
    Replied about 3 years ago
    This will be my first time buying at auction. I spoke to a title company they will charge me of course to do the search but what kind of search should I tell them I need on the property and what about taxes on the property? If the previous owner owes the bank for a loan and the bank has lein on the property because of default on payment who picks up the tab, will that be me if I buy the property. Any advise please. Thank you
    Replied almost 3 years ago
    what percentage of foreclosed properties do you find have liens on them not involving the asking price on the auction? I have done many searches on govt. sites that have revealed no leans and not had a problem. Am I getting lucky?
    Marilyn Sevigny from Acton, California
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Has anyone heard about hiring an abstractor that will go and verify title for judgements and liens? A few weeks ago I saw or heard about a company that does this type of service. Unfortunately, I was on the road and didn’t write down the companies name.
    Mary Criswell
    Replied about 2 years ago
    Why am I just learning 4 days before the close of escrow that there is a lien on the property?
    Jerry W. Investor from Thermopolis, Wyoming
    Replied almost 2 years ago
    An old post, but a good post. Title insurance is a must. Like health insurance, it does not put money in your pocket, but it protects you from losing everything in a deal.
    José Rivera Rental Property Investor from Clermont, FL
    Replied over 1 year ago
    Spot on information, thanks for posting this! I have been researching about lien research, this helps a lot.
    Kathryn Romine from Port Orchard, WA
    Replied 11 months ago
    Lien searches and all Assessor info great website. Thank you Jason! http://WWW.Zipinsight.COM Re posting Jason Woods JASON WOODS on OCTOBER 2, 2018 10:25 PM For lien you don’t need to spend $250 for a title search, you can order one of the lien report from online providers,, the data is from title company and can tell you the lien on the property.
    Scott Lee
    Replied 8 months ago
    Good looking to lean tricks of the trade. I was a logger through the 90′ into 05 had bought & sold 903 ac of land along with 4 homes, 9 repo mobile homes.owned all of it . sold out 04/05. Have 2 two unit buildings now.owned. always pay cash so they say zero credit score. I have a $135k .8 unit pocket deal, fully rented and made a 10k offer on a single fam. In northern MAINE. ( clean and rent now) and a 2 & 3 unit for $23-$29k can’t find a lender with a zero credit score. I could see it if i didn’t have collateral. if you have any. Real Deal info you would share.
    Becky Zienkowicz from Madisonville, KY
    Replied 8 months ago
    great info particularly the title insurance, thanks!