Finding commercial property owners and their contact information can be a challenge for all real estate professionals. Although we have systems in the US for registering properties, the accuracy, completeness, and accessibility of the data varies from state to state, and city to city.
Thanks to modern technology, it’s much easier to source property owner information these days using online Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools. These tools combine the latest available information about a property (and its potential owners) into one platform.
In this guide will cover:
- Examples of when and why you might be looking for property owner information
- Typical challenges experienced when identifying property and landowners
- Best places to find property owner information
When and Why Would you Need Property Owner Information?
Perhaps you want to buy a specific commercial property, but you’re wondering who owns the building, and you don’t know where to start in sourcing the details. Maybe you’re a developer keen on a parcel of vacant land that’s ripe for a new shopping mall, but you don’t know who owns the land. You might be keen on building a property investment portfolio, but you need to get hold of property owner information to tick all the boxes.
If you’re a commercial real estate broker, you’ll know the value that property ownership information holds. It can be used to find reliable, new leads, and verify specific information about property ownership for possible buyers and sellers.
Building insurance companies also often use this information to confirm a property's ownership, and to make it simpler to spot potential concerns.
Difficulties in Finding Property Owner Information
Finding the owner of a home is sometimes as simple as knocking on the door, but in commercial real estate, you’ll either be dealing with a tenant, or a ‘faceless’ commercial entity that owns the building. It’s hard to track down an actual person to talk to.
While most methods and platforms for finding owner information use public records, they can be time-consuming and not very user or beginner friendly. Government websites can be hard to use and don't always make it easy to export contact information. They also won’t offer mailing addresses for owners unless they are based at the property (which is not likely).
Depending on your source of property owner information, owners’ details can be incomplete or outdated, for example, mailing lists and surveys, or community questionnaires. These lists can also be expensive to access or could only be available for a limited time before you must pay again. And then you’ll still have to organize the information and keep it updated.
The fact that privacy laws frequently forbid disclosing the identities of property owners adds another hurdle in the quest for owner information.
Best Places to Find Property Owner Information
If you’re curious enough and have enough time, property owner information can be found in many places.
Potential sources are real estate brokers, local title deeds offices, and lawyers. Court records about property disputes, divorces, and cases regarding taxes and bankruptcies can also be useful.
Some real estate researchers use company reports and websites, media reports, official government notices and gazettes, land surveyors, and even aerial photos.
Insurance companies and banks may also be able to provide information (depending on the privacy laws).
If you’re more of a footwork kind of researcher, you might just go and knock on the door and ask the tenant. Even curious neighbors can be an invaluable source of information.
By far the easiest place to find the information is through a reliable online GIS tool, especially if there’s a mobile-friendly version of the tool available that you can use on-the-go.
How to Find Property Owner Information Using a GIS Tool
There are several property intelligence/GIS analytics platforms available these days. Some are more user-friendly than others. They mostly work on the premise that property and demographic data is linked to the geolocation of the actual building.
If you have the address of the property, you can search for the address (much like in Google Maps) using the search bar. Alternatively, select the area in which you’re looking to find properties. Once you’ve selected the area, click on the property and you will be able to see the information that’s available for that specific property. Information could include the property records, details about the property such as the size and land value, and a list of possible or reported owners and their addresses, phone numbers, and whatever other contact details are available.
While you might still have to do a bit of work to find the actual owner, or the right contact at the company that owns the building, you’ll fast-track the process substantially.
Final Thoughts on Finding Property Owner Information
If you know how to use a GIS tool, finding property owner information can be as easy as finding a business’s contact details using Google Maps, and then making a few phone calls. With all the information available through GIS platforms such as AlphaMap, there’s no excuse to still get stuck buying outdated mailing lists or posting pamphlets into neighborhood post boxes.