In commercial real estate (CRE), knowing who owns a particular property can open doors to numerous opportunities.
Whether you’re a CRE broker on the hunt for the perfect office space for your client, a developer imagining a new shopping precinct on an empty land parcel, or an investor keen to participate in a new industrial precinct, the journey begins by identifying the property owner.
Finding commercial property owners can be challenging because unlike residential properties, the owners are often faceless companies. Getting hold of a simple name and number can feel like an arduous challenge!
Why and When Might You Want to Find Out Who Owns Property?
Contacting a property owner can be a stepping stone to various CRE endeavors, such as:
- Buying or leasing a commercial property
- Acquiring vacant land for resale or investment
- Developing a property investment portfolio
- Generating reliable leads
Moreover, building insurance companies often delve into property ownership records to validate ownership and pinpoint potential concerns.
The Challenges in Finding Property Owner’s Details
To find the owner of a property, you will need ‘true ownership’ details, including their name and direct contact details.
These details are not always available from public record sources, and property titles may list anonymous corporations or holding organizations instead. Identifying the owner of commercial real estate properties can be more complex due to factors like:
- Diverse ownership structures
- Privacy concerns
- Restricted information, particularly in cases where the owners prefer to remain anonymous or where legal constraints prevent sharing of information
- Business entity involvement
9 Ways to Find out Who Owns a Property
The first step to finding a property owner is to locate the property within its county and find its exact address.
Use online map tools like Google Maps or parcel maps to find the property number and address.
Once you have the property number and/or address, you can begin searching for who owns that dream property. Keep in mind that it might be necessary to use more than one of the methods we explain below.
1. Local Assessor's Office
To access ownership information, visit the local tax assessor's office and their websites. Each county website will differ slightly, but a search function should be available to find the parcel numbers or addresses.
You can use this tool to view properties connected to the owner and their property taxes.
The information available at the assessor's office is public record and usually accurate up to the date of the last assessment. Therefore, the data could be slightly outdated. It might also cost something to access.
If you still have questions about the property, you have a few other options:
- Consult your local government office
- Contact their information line or send them an email
- Go to your city hall or other gathering location when there is a meeting
If you’re stuck or don’t know where to begin, here are the steps to find a property owner by address:
- Visit a search engine and type in something like ‘property tax records for [insert county name]’.
- Your county's tax assessor page should appear. Click on the link to launch it.
- Each county website will differ slightly, but a search function should be available. Find the link that says, ‘Search Appraisals’ or ‘Search Property Records’.
- Type in the property's address. The option to search by business name will probably be available if you don't know the address.
- Look at the results and click on the property that interests you.
If you want to locate a property owner by name, this is a great place to start your search.
2. County Recorder/Clerk's Office
Property listings can be inaccurate due to unregistered land, administrative errors, or lack of tax payments.
If the county tax assessor cannot help, contact the county clerk. They maintain property deed records with owners’ addresses and contact information.
Searching county records for commercial property owners is free, and manual searches through the local registry of deeds may be more helpful.
3. Online Property Records Search
Using online property records can be a useful way to find information about a property. Some reputable platforms include Public Records Now, Instant Checkmate, and FamilySearch.
It's important to remember that the availability of property records and the process for accessing them may vary by location.
There are also legal and ethical considerations to keep in mind.
The process is simple:
- Identify the property's location and its address
- Access online property records and search for the property using its address
- Enter additional information like street address or tax identification number
- View property details
- Verify the information
Searching for property owner details online offers numerous benefits:
- Convenience – Can be from anywhere
- Quick access to information – Saves time
- Transparency – Because these records are publicly available
However, it comes with its own set of drawbacks, too, such as:
- Privacy concerns for property owners
- Potential inaccuracies in the records
- Limitations in the information provided
- Legal restrictions that vary by jurisdiction
4. Real Estate Agents and Brokers
Finding the owner of a property may also be possible with the help of a real estate agent or broker.
Not all agents or brokers will have access to the same level of information or the same databases, so it's helpful to seek out those with specialist experience in commercial real estate.
Besides the multiple listing service (MLS), there are other commercial real estate databases available to real estate agents.
Your realtor might be able to learn whether the building you're interested in is currently for sale (or was recently) through the MLS.
A real estate agent will be helpful in guiding you through the purchase process if the property is on offer.
5. Title Companies
Another way to find the owner of a commercial property is to contact a local title company. The depth and accuracy of information might vary from one title company to another.
These companies conduct title searches, which enable them to discover details about the property other than the owner.
These details could include the following information for a property:
- Owner name and contact information
- Property characteristics
- Neighboring businesses
- Comparable sales
- Transaction history
- Local demographics
Title searches are done to ensure the property title is free of complications.
There will be some listings that are free, but you'll probably have to pay for information that isn't on the common list.
The title company conducts the research on your behalf, saving time. However, these lists are static and may not be updated as time passes. As a result, you may need to request more lists depending on how frequently you need data.
Networking can also help you find a property owner’s details.
Contact a real estate lawyer who can manage the first contact on your behalf. They may have alternative ideas on where to look for information.
If the owner is not the primary occupant, leave contact information. If neighbors are willing to provide information, ask them about the property's history.
Some effective networking avenues in the CRE sector include local real estate investor meetups, CRE online forums, and industry-specific trade shows and conventions.
7. Commercial Property Databases
Advanced property data and owner information software is a must-have if you focus on CRE. This is especially the case if you depend on continuous, high-quality leads.
This kind of software is used by more people than just real estate agents and investors.
Some examples of advanced property data and owner information software include CoStar, Reonomy, and PropertyShark. These platforms provide cutting-edge functionality. There is also the added plus of access to continuously updated records.
Some more advantages include:
- Ability to combine data
- Countrywide property owner lookups
- Visual cues and insights to find leads and fine-tune marketing lists
- GPS-enabled mobile apps
As with everything, there are disadvantages as well:
- These systems are typically subscription-based and charge extra for particular record types
- Might require a learning curve or training to utilize effectively
- Complex features like automation tools and integrations can be daunting
- Third-party support is sometimes needed
8. Online Property Owner Search Platforms
Free resources like county assessors and tax data are sometimes insufficient for locating commercial property owners. They only show current owners – which are often Limited Liability Companies – and purchase history.
Some examples of these platforms include Whitepages, Spokeo, and Zillow. They offer convenience, free access to public records, and verification of ownership and property history. They may, however, also pose privacy concerns and limited coverage.
9. Online GIS Analytics Platforms
Online GIS analytics platforms, like AlphaMap, give you a geographic visualization of CRE assets and ownership, as well as property location insights.
GIS platforms offer a convenient way to access real estate data about property owners.
To find property ownership information, do the following:
- Visit an online GIS platform
- Search for parcel information, property records, or assessment data
- Review the information
- Verify ownership by cross-referencing it with official property records
Keep in mind that property ownership information can change over time.
GIS platforms offer advantages such as convenience and map visualization.
They also give you access to extra property-related data.
However, they also have potential drawbacks:
- Potential accuracy issues
- Subscription costs
- Varying data availability
Considerations and Privacy Concerns
Property ownership information is a public record. That is why accessing and using it must comply with relevant laws and regulations.
The legality of the search depends on the purpose, such as buying or selling property or tax assessments.
Data protection laws may apply, especially if the information contains personal information. Consent from the property owner is required for marketing purposes.
Privacy concerns may arise from the disclosure of personal information. This is because such information can be used for identity theft or harassment.
Non-compliance could lead to legal repercussions such as fines or even imprisonment, depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the violation.
To navigate these legal considerations and privacy concerns, you should do the following:
- Understand local, state, and national laws
- Use the information only for legitimate purposes
- Obtain consent if you’re using the information for marketing purposes
- Implement strong data security measures to protect sensitive information
- Respect privacy
- Consult legal professionals for specific jurisdictional rules
Final Thoughts on How to Find Out Who Owns a Property
Finding property owners is necessary for various purposes, such as real estate investments and risk assessment. Technology has simplified the process through methods like online property records and GIS platforms.
These offer quick access and convenience. Don’t leave out ‘old-school’ methods like networking and personal inquiries, though. They are still very useful, as personal interaction often creates a lasting impression and could lead to finding valuable information.
Property ownership data, though a public record, must be handled with care. It’s therefore important to respect privacy and adhere to local laws. Be responsible and implement ethical practices in property owner searches.