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Why I “Dig” Searching Real Estate Records

On the surface, making sure a client is buying real estate that is free of liens, property disputes and other encumbrance may seem boring.

You start with the current owner, often a seller, and conduct multiple computer database searches to determine if there are any liens filed or if any of the property has been sold previously. You pore over plats and surveys looking for misplaced fences, utility service and anything that you don’t expect to see.

Then you move on to the previous owners sequentially, tracing the ownership back 40 or 50 years to make sure everything has been done properly. You make sure taxes have been paid, no lawsuits are pending, companies are in good standing and there are no unpaid assessments.

Pretty dry, right?

I love having to pull the old books from the 40s where the clerks hand-copied every deed into the deed book.

I have seen estates of prominent citizens where the second wife and the children fought over the will – and how much they would get from the dearly departed.

I have seen modern-day properties where the plats still show the service alleys behind and between the houses for coal delivery and garbage pickup (or at least that’s what I like to imagine the alleys were for.)

I can follow the generations of families as the “heir property” passes from one to the next. It is gratifying to see the family traditions and growth.

I have tracked down heirs to fix 20-year-old mistakes in the public record.

I have learned how several different religious denominations are organized and how they own property.

In short, I love what I do.

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