How to Look for Public Mortgage Records

After a mortgage is signed, it is filed on public record.

series object on white: isolated - Signature image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from Fotolia.com

When shopping for a home, it is important to do as much research as you can before presenting an offer. This includes locating a copy of the home's current mortgage records. Since this information is public, you have every right to access it. The process may take up some of your time but knowing how much the current homeowner still owes on their mortgage can help you make an offer that will not only save you money, but will also increase the likelihood that the offer is accepted.

Understand What Information You'll Receive

It's a good idea to know what information you can expect to walk away with when conducting a public mortgage records search. Depending on the specific county, you'll most likely discover the borrower's name, the property address, maps or surveys of the property, the square footage of any dwellings and the property's assessed value. You'll also be able to see previous sales listings and the property's tax assessment history.

Gather Information for a Search

In order to conduct the mortgage record search, you'll need to gather the most basic information. You can either obtain the property address, which is easily found on the sales listing page, or the owner's name. If you need the owner's name, you may want to ask your real estate agent to call the listing agent for the information, as it won't be posted on the sales listing page.

Check with Real Estate Sites

If you're only interested in the most basic information, or you're on a time crunch, you can do a quick check on one of the major real estate sites. For example, Realtor.com displays both the property and tax history. You'll learn when the home was put up for sale and at what price, if there were any changes to the price since then, how much the taxes were for the property over the last three years and the property's total assessed value. Zillow and Trulia show similar information.

Conduct Your Search

The mortgage records you need to access will be filed with the county the property resides in. You can either visit that county's public records or clerk's office in person, or check their website to see if a search can be conducted online. Middlesex, New Jersey, for example, has a search system that is accessible seven days a week between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Camden County offers the public the option to perform a basic search for free, or pay a little extra for premium access. The added benefit to the premium access is the ability to check the status of all documents submitted for recording and the option to print documents without a watermark.

Review With Your Agent

Once you've printed out the documents, take them to your real estate agent. This professional will be able to read and understand the figures within the mortgage records and help you come up with an offer to present to the owners of the property you're interested in.

Items you will need

  • Borrower's name
  • Property address
  • Computer with internet access

Tip

  • States and counties have different names for the office responsible for record keeping. They might be called recorders, registers, clerks, probate judges or other titles.

Warning

  • There might be a fee associated with accessing public mortgage records.

Photo Credits

  • series object on white: isolated - Signature image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from Fotolia.com

About the Author

Alicia Bodine has been a professional writer for 13 years. She has produced thousands of articles for online publications such as Demand Studios, GoBankingRates and WiseGeek. Bodine is passionate about gardening, travel, education and finance. She has received awards for being a top content producer.


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