How to Look for Public Mortgage Records
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.
As long as you know the property address or owner's name, you can look for public mortgage records through real estate websites and county clerk or public records offices.
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 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. For example, Middlesex, New Jersey 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.
- There might be a fee associated with accessing public mortgage records.
Alicia Bodine is a New Jersey-based writer specializing in finance. With more than 13 years of experience, her work has appeared in LendingTree, GoBankingRates, Sapling, Pocket Sense and budgeting.thenest.com.