Posted over 8 years ago

Pennsylvania Sheriff Sales - Doing your own title search

Hi All, 

     I'm posting this after a hair raising experience navigating a sheriff sale in Central Pennsylvania.

A most sincere thanks to Steve Babiak for his expert help!

In this Blog Post I will outline the process.  Questions & Comments are always appreciated.  After all, life is one big learning lesson!

1.  Go to the local Sheriff's Office to get a list of the upcoming foreclosures.  I took my iPhone and had no trouble snapping a photo of each.  Though different counties have different rules, so bring a pen and notebook. 

2.  Go next door to the Prothonotary's office and look up the person(s) who are facing foreclosure.  Look for case(s) titled "Execution" and pull them up on the screen.  Note the date, name of lender, and amount.

It is important to note that the Prothonotary only has information on delinquent payments, so liens that are paid current will not show up. 

Visiting different counties has revealed that data archives are not the same.  Each computer interface will likely be different.  Don't be shy, get someone from behind the counter to help you get started.  Ask them how to search everything, and how to view the dockets.  

3.  Go next door to the Recorders office and look up the person(s).  Here you will be able to figure out what lien position the foreclosing lender is in.  Check all assignments carefully to make sure you know what you are buying.

4. Figure out your max purchase price and get ready to bid!


In my case had I not stopped to the Sheriff's office the day before the scheduled auctions, I would have NOT seen one.  That is right.  An excellent parcel came up the day before the auction.  Lucky me, because no one else showed up to bid and we got an excellent deal.  If you're planning to attend an auction, stop to check the list as frequently as feasible, but definitely check it the day before. 

If you have never done a title search before, make sure you PRACTICE before the auction.  Even if you're not interested in a property.  There are many other people doing title searches, and if you get stuck or have questions, it is better to ask and find out answers ahead of time.  There is nothing worse than scrambling to figure out if you should bid mere moments before the bidding starts.   


Comments (6)

  1. Great article! Buyers need to verify all liens and mortgages against the property before offering to bid on the property at the sheriff's sale. It is very common that the bid amount at the auction does not reflect the total lien amount against the property. All liens associated with a foreclosed property transfer to a new owner (except for certain types of sheriff's sales). Since doing a search like this is very difficult if you do not know what you are actually looking for.  We offer this service and many others.

  2. @Mark Updegraff ;@Steve Babiak 

    One simple quick question :

     County landrecords dept. should have all the records of all possible liens on the property ?

    If they have this information online available to public, do you feel there still might be any reason they should hide any lien on the property ? or in other words if i don't see any IRS/mechanic  or Second mortgage etc would i may still get any surprises ? 

    Here in Iowa all sheriff sales are with no redemption, not sure how IRS liens are being handled, as far i know bidder inherits it, it will probably needs to be satisfied before bidder tries to sell the property. 

  3. are they all usually next door to each other?

  4. Great stuff. I would add that certain liens are "invisible"....that is, they exist as a matter of law and don't show on a typical search. Examples include unpaid child support, unpais sales and use taxes (imputed to business owners) and inheiritance taxes....

  5. Thanks Mark for sharing this experience. I'm sure this will be helpful for anyone who wants to attend an auction. Great to have the resources here at BP. It is easy to get caught up in the information here and miss out on the other great resource available which is the BP membership.

  6. Mark, Thanks for the kind words. I hope your acquisition turns out well, and that you profit nicely from this. Steve Babiak