Tax Lien Certificate Sale – Researching Property in the County Recorder’s Office

Buying tax lien certificates can be an interesting way to earn a higher percentage return on your money than you would at the bank. In our county for instance, you could earn 10%.

In Tax Lien Certificates – Sure Thing or Risky Investment – I described what tax tax lien certificates are and how you can earn money on them.

In Tax Lien Sale – Research Time – I described how I was going about researching the properties that would have tax lien certificates sold on them in my county this year.

In  Tax Lien Certificate Sale – How to Research the Properties – Visiting the County Collector’s Office . I showed you the County Collector’s tax sale room and described a few things about the actual sale.

Today, we will look at digging up the scoop on the properties in the county Recorder’s office.

The county Recorder’s office is responsible for (surprise, surprise) recording documents pertaining to real property and citizens in the county – and for keeping those public records organized and available.It is in a really small room, considering how much information is available.


Recorder officeHere is a picture of ours.

As I walked in, there were two employees waiting and eager to help me.

Searching My Own Name
I started with a computerized search on my own name – just to see how to go about looking stuff up. There were two lines in the resulting display, one for a sewer easement and one for a release of deed of trust from when we paid off our mortgage. I knew that there should be a record of the deed and a record of the mortgage as well, so I asked one of the employees how to find them. He looked up the book and page number in the GIS database – which is available over the internet.

From there he took the book/page number to a paper file with a bunch of microfiche records. They are organized by book and page. He pulled one out and put it in the viewer and there was our warranty deed and the deed of trust (to the mortgage company).

I decided to print these ($1 a page).

Searching for Tax Lien Certificate Property Owners
Then I took the tax lien certificate sale list I had and did a computer search of several of the listings. Each one I looked up had many more records than we did (each record being a transaction of some sort). The computer listing showed rows with the following columns for each person I searched:

  • Grantor or grantee
  • Name
  • Alternate name (contained many different things – sometimes the spouse, sometimes the bank, sometimes other stuff)
  • A code which said what type of document was recorded (more later)
  • A short legal description

It’s Not Necessarily Computerized!
Our office has been computer scanning documents only since 2005. If they were scanned, you could click on the ‘detail’ button and actually see the document. If not, when you clicked on ‘detail’ all you see is “Image not recorded” – in this case you would have to note the book/page number and look it up in the microfiche.

What the Heck Does This Stuff Mean?
Some of the names I looked up had 15 – 20 entries. Entries were made when the property was purchased, when a mortgage was issued, when a mortgage was paid off, when an easement was taken and etc.

It was hard at first to try to figure out what I was seeing, but then I noticed on the bulletin board, a paper listing what the document type codes meant. The codes were listed on the screen like ‘DR DR’ or ‘TR WD’. It turns out DR DR means Deed of Release (which is supposed to be issued when a lien or mortgage is paid off) and TR WD is Warranty Deed – meaning that the property was transferred with a warranty deed to the owner. See below for a list of the codes in our county – these are NOT uniform across states or counties.

To further confuse matters, sometimes there were owners of different properties with the same name as the owner of the property I was interested in – so those had to be identified and ignored. Also, the owner sometimes owned, or had owned multiple different properties in the county and I had to try to id the property that had the tax lien on it.

Many times, the actual document had not been scanned so I had to go to microfiche to see it.
Of course I got nosy and looked up a few of my neighbors as well – wow, the things you don’t know!

This Kind of Research Takes Time
I surmised that in order to discover liens, assessments and other issues, I would have to spend a long time in the Recorder’s office. I can see why a title search costs a lot – you not only would need to plow through all the records for the current owner on the property, but also all the past owners to verify clean title.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do it from home!

Getting Access to Recorder Office Data From Home
In our county, you can get online access via the internet to this database if you subscribe and follow county rules as to use of the data. You can subscribe based on the number of documents per month that you want to view. I found this out by looking at the county Recorder’s internet site. They do charge several hundred dollars and up a month for the subscription.

What other research would you suggest?  Would you consider tax lien certificate purchases?

List of Our Counties Document Codes
Acknowledgment – DE ACKNOW

Addendum – DE ADDEND
Affidavit – DE AFFT
Agreement – DE AGMT
Annexation – DE ANNES
Assignment – DE ASSIGN
Bill Sale – DE BIL SAL
Bond – DE BOND
Certificate – DE CERT
Commission Report – DE COM REP
Consent – DE CONSENT
Contract – DE CONTRACT
Covenant – DE COV
Decree – DE DECREE
Declaration – DE DEL
Disclaimer – DE DISCLM
Easement – DE ESMT
Home School – DE HOME SCHOOL
Judgment – DE JUDGMT
Lease – DE LEASE
Levy – DE LEVY
License – DE LICENSE
Lis Pendence – DE LIS PENDENCE
Miscellaneous – DE MIS
Notice – DE NOTICE
Option – DE Option
Ordinance – DE ORD
Order – DE ORDER
Plat – DE PLAT
Power of Attorney – DE POA
Right of Way – DE R/W
Ratification – DE RATIF
Report – DE REPORT
Restriction – DE REST
Revocation – DE REVOC
Sheriff – DE SHERIFF
Supplement Indenture – DE SUP IND
Survey – DE SURVEY
Tax abasement – DE TAX ABS
Tax Bill – DE Tax
Termination – DE TERM
Vacate – DE VAC
Waiver – DE WAIVER
Will – DE Will
Deed of Release – DR DR
Partial Release – DR PART
Military Discharge – MIL DIS
Notice of Rights – NOR
Notice of Intended Sale – NOIS
Unconditional Final Lien – UFLW
Waiver for Res Real – PR (No code listed)
Affidavit – DT AFFT
Agreement – DT AGMT
Appointment of Trustee – DT APT TR
Assignment – DT ASSIGN
Delinquent (Sewer) – DT DELINQ
Deed of Trust – DT TRUST
Future Advance – DT FUT ADV
Judgment – DT JUDGMT
Lease – DT LEASE
Lien (Home Assn) – DT LIEN
Lis Pendence – DT LIS PEN
Notice (.055 REQ) – DT NOTICE
Notice of Mechanic Lien – DT NOT MEC
Ratification – DT RATIF
Resignation – DT RESGN
Subordination – DT SUB
Supplement Indenture – DT SUP IND
Tax Bill – DT Tax
Waiver – DT Waiver
Acceptance – TR ACCEPT
Affidavit – TR AFFT
Beneficiary – TR Bene
Cemetery – TR CEM
Certificate – TR CERT
Collector Deed – TR COLL DE
Conservator – TR CONSER
Decree – TR DECREE
Final Settlement – TR FIN SET
Judgement – TR JUDGMT
In Lieu – TR LIEU
Personal Representative – TR PER REP
Quit Claim – TR QCT
Sheriff – TR SHERIFF
Transfer Deed – TR D
Trustee Deed – TR DEED
Revocation – TR REV
Foreclosure Deed – TR TR DEED
Warranty Deed – TR WD
Will – TR WILL
Federal Tax Lien – TL FED
Federal Tax Lien Release – TL FED REL
State Tax Lien – TL ST
State Tax Lien Release – TL ST REL
Expunge (STL and FTL) – TL ST MIS TL FED MIS
Request (State law cited) – REQ
Durable Power of Attorney – DUR POA

Disclaimer:  By publishing this article I am not advising or advocating participation in tax lien sales.  I am not an expert on tax lien sales, I am relaying personal experience only.


You may also like...