How Do I Find Out Who Owns a House?
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Who owns a home is a public record in the United States, as are the details surrounding the home's acquisition. Those details can include terms of a mortgage, any liens associated with the property, and whether or not the owner is in the process of foreclosure.
Not only can you find out who currently owns a property, but you can see the ownership history of a property as well. This information is recorded within the county's public records (or parish, in the case of Louisiana) the home is located within.
Access to public records is free, but depending on the county's size, the ease with which you can obtain these records may vary. In Harris County, which houses Houston, multiple types of property records are easily searchable online. In smaller counties, records may not be as digitally accessible. However, you can still access them with a visit to local government offices.
Key points from this article:
- Public Records for Ownership and Financial Details – Home ownership and details surrounding the home's acquisition, including mortgage terms, liens, and foreclosure status, are public records and can be accessed through the county's public records office where the home is located.
- Digital Accessibility Varies by County – While some counties, like Harris County in Houston, Texas, have made property records easily searchable online, smaller counties may not have digital access, requiring a visit to local government offices.
- County Appraisal District for Ownership Information – The local appraisal district is the easiest route to find basic ownership information, such as the name and contact information of a homeowner. This information is often accessible online, even in smaller counties.
- County District Clerk for Financial Records – The county district clerk maintains financial records associated with a property, including deeds, mortgages, and any liens or debts attached to the property. These records can be searched online in more populated counties, while smaller counties may require an in-person visit.
Disclaimer – The information on this page is intended for general informational purposes only and not to provide legal advice.
How to find the owner of a house
So how do you find out who owns a property in Texas for free? For example purposes, this article will focus on finding out who owns a home in Houston, Texas. The process will be nearly identical to other areas that have their property records digitally accessible online.
Suppose all you're looking for is the name and contact information of a homeowner. In that case, the local appraisal district will be the easiest route and the most likely to have their data accessible online, even in smaller counties. Since most of Houston is in Harris County, we would head over to the Harris County Appraisal District (also referred to as HCAD) to do a search for Houston, Texas property records.
The HCAD website has a tab labeled Property Search that gives you several options for finding information about the owner of a property. You can search by a tax account ID number (HCAD search by tax ID), a property address (HCAD search by address), or the name of a property owner (HCAD search by name).
Once you find the tax ID, property address, or property owner you are looking for, you can click on the individual result. The resulting record will contain information on the property. The type of information that will be displayed could vary based on the county. In Harris County, you'll find information that includes:
- The full address of the property
- The tax ID number of the property
- The name of the property owner (or owners)
- The mailing address for the property owner(s), which may be different than the property address
- The legal description for the property (used in deeds and mortgage documents)
- A history of who has owned the property in the past
- The current and historical assessed value of a property for taxing purposes
- A list of any tax exemptions that might apply to the property
- The statistical information of the lot and property (square footage, characteristics, condition as assessed from the exterior of the property, etc.)
For most people searching for basic ownership information, the county appraisal district will provide the details you're likely to be looking to find. While the above example used Harris County, a quick Google search for “[county the home is in] appraisal district” will turn up the website you need to search on to find the above information or a similar result.
How to find financial details relating to the ownership of a house
“Financial details” can include available information of a deed and mortgage for a home, as well as any liens or debts attached to or secured by the property. Once again, we will be using the steps to find this information in Houston, Texas, for example purposes.
While the county appraisal district keeps records of a property for tax purposes, the county district clerk maintains the financial records associated with a property. Since most of Houston is in Harris County, we would head over to the Harris County Clerk Real Property Division's website.
You can perform a search using numerous details, but the most common way most people will look up records is using an owner's first and last name.
The term Grantor describes the person who sold the house. Grantee represents the purchaser of a home – which would be the current or former property owner. The results will contain legal documents that have been recorded with the county that involve a piece of real property.
These most often include the recording of Deeds of Trust and Warranty Deeds – which can often include details of the property's mortgage. But these can also include tax liens, mechanics' liens, and judgments from lawsuits – anything that is legally attached to the property to secure that the debt listed is paid.
Once again, while the above example used Harris County, a quick Google search for “[county the home is in] county clerk real property” will turn up the website you need to search on to find the above information or a similar result.
The more populated the county, the more likely it is that these records will be searchable online. You might have to go to the office in smaller counties that holds these records in person to search them.
How to find out how much someone pays in property taxes on a house
While the county appraisal district will tell you the assessed value of a home, any tax exemptions it may have, and the tax rate that the property owner pays, it doesn't give an exact amount that the owner pays in property taxes. Using Houston in this example, to find this information, we would need to head over to the Harris County Property Tax Assessor-Collector website.
When you mouse over or expand the Property Tax menu item, you'll see a dropdown that includes Search & Payments.” Clicking on this tab will allow you to search for property tax bills based on the tax account number, the name of an owner, or the address of a property.
In Harris county, the resulting record of information will show the exact amount of property tax owed on the property, whether or not it has been paid, a five-year account history, and a list of receipts available for tax payments that have been made on the property.
Again, while the above example used Harris County, a quick Google search for “[county the home is in] county property tax assessor-collector” will turn up the website you need to search on to find the above information or a similar result.