When looking to buy real property buyers often ask: “How to Find California Property Owners Information”.
Researching property owners in California appears simple with so many public records available. Looking up property deeds and tax records in every county only require the property address.
Many California counties make this information available online. But, California state law prohibits tax assessors from publishing identifying information like a homeowner’s name online without written permission from the owner.
Thus, those counties providing online searches require visiting their offices to search the property owner’s names and addresses.
Also, other counties not online require visiting their records office to request the information.
Take These Steps to Find California Property Owners Information
Local California Tax Assessor Research
Every city and/or county assessing property taxes maintains records of property ownership in its jurisdiction. Members of the public enjoy the right to search the records for free.
In fact, besides property ownership, the public may search:
- Property Tax exemptions;
- Tax rates;
- Tax liens; and
- Property assessment values.
California Property Deed Searches
The local Recorder’s Office (or County Clerk) records all property deeds of ownership, property transfers, and related legal documents. Some California counties call it the Registrar of Deeds office. These offices maintain up to date property records.
This includes the current property owner’s name.
You will find a recorder’s offices in the county courthouse or other county buildings. But, some sit in a city hall like the San Francisco Deed Recorder.
Visit any recorder’s office and use one of their public computer terminals to do research. Their staff can assist you with your search. For a small fee, they provide you with copies of registered documents.
Private Online Record Search in California
Many real estate websites get public ownership data from different sources. Some offer this information for free. For instance, Realtor, Trulia, and Zillow allow you to search their listed properties by area.
SearchSystems, a family-owned business since 1990, allows you to search Free Public Records over 70,000 databases. Do your property searches by state, county, city, and zip code. Also, search:
- Business registrations;
- Criminal records;
- Divorce records;
- Marriage records;
- Death records;
- Corporate records; and
- Many other public records.
However, their Free Service limited to one search by state, county, or city at a time. Their “Premium” databases cost a small fee which expands your searches nationwide or statewide to find more public records quickly.
Tricks to Track Down California Commercial Property Owners
While searching for home owner’s information becomes easy, finding owners of California commercial properties becomes difficult.
That’s because commercial real estate (CRE) owners in California take the title in different forms. For instance, commercial properties owned by a corporation, partnership, LLC, Trust, or other legal entities.
With 58 counties in California each maintaining its own system of property deeds and records, makes the research complex.
As mentioned above, not every California Registrar or Recorder office provides online search platforms. For example, the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder doesn’t allow online public searches.
But, the San Diego County Clerk’s office allows online searches.
California Secretary of State
The greatest challenge with researching California commercial property owners occurs when you run into a legal entity.
A corporation, LLC, or trust remains anonymous.
When you run into an LLC you must ask “Who owns the LLC?”
The best way to research the LLC starts with the California Secretary of State office. But, limits occur.
For instance, if you type in “Who owns an LLC?” in the Secretary of State’s database, you get this reply: “There were no results found. Please try another keyword or phrase”.
If you look at the top in the Secretary of State’s website next to “About” you find “Business”. Click on that and you’ll see:
“The Secretary of State’s office processes filings, maintains records and provides information to the public relating to business entities that include corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, general partnerships, limited liability partnerships, and other business filings.” Source
Then, you need to go to their Business Entities web page to learn about LLC filings and required information along with news, updates, law changes, etc.
There, you click on “Business Search” which states:
“This search provides access to available information for corporations, limited liability companies and limited partnerships of record with the California Secretary of State, with free PDF copies of imaged business entity documents, including the most recent imaged Statements of Information filed for corporations and limited liability companies.” Source
Then, you search by the LLCs name or entity number.
Use a California CRE Brokerage
If all the steps above become too burdensome, another option exists.
Work with a California CRE Broker. If you don’t know one, try contacting these Commercial Brokers Associations:
Commercial Brokerage International (CBI) formed in 2006 with many members located in Orange and San Diego counties.
California Business Properties Association (CBPA) with over 10,000 member brokerages and commercial, industrial, and retail real estate industries.
The California Association of Business Brokers (CABB) facilitates business brokers.
The California Association of Realtors includes many commercial real estate brokerages.
Hire a Property Intelligence Company
A property intelligence company maintains large databases of California property owners. These include non-listed “off-market” property owners. Many commercial property owners get included.
Reonomy maintains a database including over 3 million California commercial assets. They claim their customers easily access property owners’ contact information including LLCs and other legal entities with a “few clicks of a button”.
LoopNet not only provides resources for selling, buying, or leasing commercial properties, but also provides good comp and sales data. CRE brokers use the data to find and analyze CRE trends. It also identifies commercial property owners.
To answer the question: “How to Find California Property Owners Information?” only requires the property’s address.
But, not every California County Clerk’s office or Recorder’s office or Registrar of Deeds office maintain online records. This requires visiting their office to seek a property owner’s name and address.
On top of that, California state law prohibits publishing property owner’s identities without written permission. This includes the internet and in print.
Thus, even if property records appear online a personal visit becomes necessary.
Public records also found at count tax assessor’s offices provide useful information.
Private property database companies provide some free searches. But, you must pay for faster information covering a wider database.
Working with a California commercial brokerage also helps with locating commercial property owners. Even then, going to the California Secretary of State’s database provides answers to who owns legal entities on the commercial property titles.
After Locating California Commercial and Multi-Residential Property Owners
If you end up buying commercial or multi-residential properties consider hiring a professional property management company.
Contact Us to find out about how our property management services save you time and money throughout the greater San Diego area.
Steven Rich, MBA – Guest Blogger
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