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How to Perform a Property Records Search in California


Real estate investors often ask: “How to perform a property records search in California”?

Industry experts refer to a property search as a “title search”. This involves examining public records to see who really owns the property and if anyone filed liens or legal claims on the property.

Investors want a “clear title” free of all liens and claims before completing the purchase of a property.

Recently, we published a post here titled: “How to Find California Property Owners Information” here.

But, this post goes beyond finding out who owns a property.


How to Perform a Property Records Search in California Yourself


The State of California maintains vast amounts of public records about real properties. Each of the 58 counties uses its own system for researching real property records.

For instance, a California “property deed” transfers real property ownership from the old owner (grantor) to the new owner (grantee). It’s a written legal document signed and dated by the grantor.

You’ll find most California property deeds at the County Clerk’s office, also called the Registrar/Recorder office. Some of them provide online searches. Others require visiting their offices.

For example, the San Diego County Clerk’s Office provides online searches. But, the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder doesn’t.

Local property tax information appears in the California city or county treasurer’s office. You’ll find records about annual tax payments and unpaid tax liens. Yet, the smaller counties combine their Treasurer’s office with other offices.

For example, the Solano County office includes the Treasurer, County Clerk, and the Tax Collector.

California County Tax Assessors maintain property cards which include the property owner’s name, his/her legal address, and annual property taxes.

But, some tax assessor’s records become difficult to research.

For example, the Alameda County Assessor’s Office provides online information (if you know how to navigate their peculiar GIS system).

Or, the Orange County Assessor’s Office requires a visit to access their rolls after making a written request.


Researching Orange County Recorder’s Property Records


Orange County Recorder’s Office online service provides information about county properties.

You can get information from the Orange County Recorder’s Office about these topics:


How to Research San Diego County Property Assessments


The San Diego County Assessor/Recorder/County Clerk Office provides important information online. It’s a one-stop-shop for researching all three agencies about real property records. These include:

  • Property ownership;
  • Assessed Values;
  • Property characteristics;
  • Historical tax information;
  • Property sales information;
  • Maps; and an
  • Online property index.

Their staff helps the public with their questions and searches. Coin-operated copiers available to the public for copying any property records.

They also maintain branch services at several locations.


If You Don’t want to do your own California Property Research


After viewing what it takes to do your own California property searches if it’s too much time and hassle alternatives exist.

Private companies sell their fast California property research services.

Without making any recommendations here are some of the most popular search companies.




An offshoot of Integrity Title Company & Records and Courthouse Specialists. CourthouseDirect.com provides document retrieval services for federal, state, and county offices in all 50 states. Their images of real property records cover over 1,600 counties in the U.S.

Their website maintains the largest repository of courthouse documents in the country.

California property searches begin here.

Also, you can research judgments, liens, and releases at CourthouseDirect.com here.

The types of liens become expansive such as:

Voluntary Liens where the property owner voluntarily pledges the real property as collateral for a mortgage or other obligation including:

  • Deeds of Trust;
  • Builder Liens;
  • Mechanic’s Liens;
  • Note Payable;
  • Contracts for Sale; and
  • UCC – 1 Financing Statements.

Involuntary Liens and Judgments (called Adverse filings) when the property owner defaults on a loan or obligation to a government entity or a lender or lost a lawsuit. These include:

  • Abstracts of Judicial Judgments (civil lawsuits);
  • State Tax Lien;
  • Federal Tax Lien; and
  • Materialman’s and Mechanic’s Liens.




Another private company to access California property records. Easily conduct searches by property address.

One-place access to in-depth property records.

Property Shark provides viewers with a sample property to research at:

1675 Carla Ridge in Beverly Hills, CA

View a sample property report of this California address here.

This sample provides:

  • Property address;
  • Latitude/Longitude;
  • Legal description;
  • Property owner’s name;
  • Purchase date;
  • Purchase price;
  • Neighborhood;
  • School district;
  • Municipality;
  • Assessor’s map;
  • Index map;
  • Property tax;
  • Tax year;
  • Land value;
  • Building value;
  • Total property tax;
  • Land property class;
  • Zoning;
  • Lot square footage;
  • Weed hazard;
  • Building design type;
  • Square footage;
  • Year built;
  • Last year alteration;
  • Units;
  • Bedrooms;
  • Bathrooms;
  • Construction type;
  • Shape;
  • Heating/AC;
  • Quality class; and
  • Quality class code.




The answer to the question: “How to perform a property records search in California”?

Simply, conduct public records searches of any real property in California yourself, or hire a private company.

We explained how to perform property records searches in California yourself. Since we provide property management services in the greater San Diego area we emphasized Orange County and San Diego County public records searches.

We also offered a couple of private companies to save you time and the type of information they provide.

Contact Us for all your property management services in San Diego and outlying areas.


Steven Rich, MBA – Guest Blogger



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