How To Find Previous Owners of a House
There are a number of reasons why contacting the previous owners of a house may be necessary. Unfortunately. that information may not always be readily accessible. You may need to put on your detective hat, have a good internet connection, and start connecting the dots from several data sources to find the location of a previous owner. The first place to look will always be the sales history of the home. Virtually all jurisdictions keep a complete record of who owned a home and how long they owned it. Although it won't usually have the current address of those owners, it will give you some names or financial institutions that took possession of the property so you'll know who you're actually trying to find.
1. Simple Web Searches
Sometimes the easiest way to find someone is to just use their name as a search term. If the previous owners of a home have a Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus account, then these will typically top the results of a search for that individual. If someone has an unusual name, then this method is quite effective. If social accounts can't be found, then a work bio page, a blog with contact information, or even their current home address can be quickly located. For better results, remember to use quotation marks around the name like this: “John Doe.”
2. Real Estate Websites
Many real estate websites today offer a full listing of who previously owned a home. Sites like Redfin can offer a glimpse into who past owners happened to be. The local county assessor's website will also have the same information because in most jurisdictions, it is a public record. California is one exception to this rule as the current address of a property owner will not be displayed online.
3. Local Offices
Some county assessors do not have an online directory of properties in their area. When this occurs, those records will be available at the local office. Stop in person to request the file. You may be asked to pay a fee for accessing the records or making a copy of them. There is no guarantee that a current address will be on file, however, so pay the fee at your own risk.
4. Send Them a Piece of Mail
If the previous owners have just moved out of the home, then a forwarding address may be available. Send the previous owners a piece of mail at the old address and request forwarding notification. Although this method doesn't work 100% of the time, it is a fairly easy and cheap way to find an address when one is needed.
5. Check With the Neighbors
Not everyone is friendly with their neighbors, but there is usually someone in the neighborhood who will have the new address of the previous owners of a home. Check with whomever heads up the local homeowner's association first in case there are overdue fees on the home. If so, there's a good chance that the HOA is billing out to the new address and you can get a copy of it.
6. Use a Paid Search
There are several paid websites that offer access to all available public records. You'll have to pay a nominal fee to access the basic records, but in return you'll often get a phone number in addition to the new address, which helps to make contacts a lot easier to make.
7. Check the White Pages
If you don't feel like paying someone to search, then check the national white pages for listings. Most phone numbers, if listed, are accompanied by an address. Search the person's name and you'll get regions where people with matches may be located. This is usually the least reliable method, however, because listings can be under initials, so someone named “Greg” might have 10 matches and 35 more with just the first letter “G.”
8. Hire Someone
If all of these other methods fail, then hiring a private detective to do the work for you will just about guarantee results. The cost is usually fairly high for this, however, so it should only be used as a last resort. Make sure to use someone that is licensed to operate in your state. Private detectives may have access to records and databases that individuals may not always have on their own. Knowing how to find the previous owners of a home can sometimes be difficult, but these 8 options can help to make the job easier. Use them today to locate the people you need to contact.
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