Access to property ownership history is crucial when prospecting for new business leads among commercial real estate owners – whether you are a mortgage broker, lender, investor, developer, energy provider, roofer, cleaner, or a window salesman.
In this article, we will illustrate the best ways to obtain property ownership information. We will also review the type of details you can expect to derive from ownership history, and how commercial real estate service providers and investors can take advantage of the information they uncover.
Ownership History of Property
The value of ownership history details spans across all real estate asset types, including multi family, office, retail, industrial, and hospitality properties, and even land.
The information entails much more than just the names of the individuals or LLCs that have owned the property over time.
Ownership history also includes the following details:
- Sales History: the prices and dates of previous sales, as well as all parties involved in each transaction.
- Current and Past Debt: most recent and past mortgage amounts, any construction loans, loan origination and maturity dates, the lenders of each loan, and any property liens and foreclosures.
- Asset/Building History: the year the asset was built, along with any renovations.
All of this information can be compiled from a combination of different public records sources, such as county clerks and tax assessors websites, building permit departments, and business entity databases.
Alternatively, you can use the Reonomy Platform to access all property data in one place. We will discuss some of the potential advantages of using Reonomy later in this article.
What You Can Learn From Ownership History
There are multiple ways to benefit from the information you derive from the ownership history of real estate assets. The inferences you make about properties and their owners can help you identify new business leads and potential investment opportunities.
As mentioned above, ownership data includes sales and debt history, tax and mechanics liens, and much more. For example, if you look at an asset’s sales price and date, and the mortgage information for that transaction, you can infer the amount of equity the owner may have and make some assumptions about their future intentions related to the property.
Bonus for service providers and brokers:
Owners with significant equity may have available funds to invest in major improvements such as solar panels, new roofing and windows, appliances, and so on. They may also be interested in purchasing additional properties in the area.
Bonus for lenders:
Owners with limited equity (demonstrated by a large outstanding mortgage balance) may be interested in refinancing at a lower rate.
Additionally, all of this information can be used for general research about the local and national real estate market trends.
Let’s look at some sample assumptions commercial real estate professionals could make based on reviewing various property ownership details.
Infer Current Owner Intent
Investors and others looking to purchase commercial real estate can use the most recent sale date of a property to identify owners who are more likely to be interested in selling.
The average holding period for a commercial asset is 10 years. Spotting properties that have not been sold within the last 10 years is an excellent way to create a list of potential off-market deals to pursue.
The Reonomy Platform features a sales history search option which allows you to weed out properties sold in the last decade.
If you also have information regarding the price the owner paid for the property and their financial position, you may be able to better estimate a sale price the owner might be willing to consider.
Owners in financial distress may be willing to sell their property below market value. If you are after such deals, look for owners in pre-foreclosure and owners with approaching mortgage maturity dates who may have a balloon payment coming up.
Mortgage brokers and lenders can also use this data to identify owners who may be interested in refinancing. They can compare the terms of the existing mortgage to their own terms, and approach the owner with a better financial offer.
Identify Property Service Leads
If you have a roofing, HVAC, solar installation, renovation, commercial cleaning or similar business, you can use property history to identify owners who might need your building services.
As we said above, owners with significant equity in a property are very likely to have funds available for capital improvements.
Roofers, window installers, and HVAC professionals should look at the date a property was built. Older buildings may be ripe for upgrades in these areas.
Owners who have recently purchased properties may be looking for cleaning services, solar installation, landscapers, and more.
Find Potential Buyers
If you are looking to sell property, you may want to use ownership history data to identify recently sold properties and their grantors. Owners who have recently sold an asset may have cash on hand from the sale that they are looking to reinvest in another piece of real estate.
Mortgage brokers and lenders may be interested in reaching out to these individuals as well.
Estimate Past and Potential Future ROI
Reviewing a property’s past sale prices and dates in combination with current trends in the real estate market can help investors determine an asset’s value.
Additionally, this analysis can be used to predict how the property’s value is likely to change in the future. Commercial real estate professionals can use this information to determine which properties are likely to offer the greatest return on investment.
Avoid Problem Properties and Owners
You can also use property ownership history to identify potential red flags.
For example, a property with a unusually high number of sale transactions may warrant further investigation. This may be an indication that the asset has some inherent issues and it would be wise to avoid purchasing or servicing the property altogether.
Additionally, service providers should watch out for property owners with signals of financial distress, such as a history of liens. You may want to avoid performing contract work for such individuals.
Contact Property Owners Directly
Whether you are interested in purchasing a property, offering mortgage refinancing, or providing building services, you will need to reach out to the owner directly.
Furthermore, if you are looking to invest in property, contacting owners off market can save you money and help you avoid competition from other interested buyers.
When using Reonomy, not only do you get the sales history of an asset, but you can also access the contact information of the current property owners.
This includes the phone numbers, emails, and mailing addresses of any individuals hiding behind a property-owning LLC.
How to Find Property Ownership History
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, you can find the ownership history of a property through local public records resources, or by using a platform such as Reonomy. Let’s look at the latter option first.
Property Ownership History From Reonomy
With Reonomy, you can search for a known owner either by the name of an individual or an LLC.
You can however, also discover completely new properties by using a combination of filters such as preferred asset type, location, sales history, debt history, tenant mix, and more.
When reviewing any individual property, you will be able to see its sales history which includes details on the two parties involved in the transaction, whether they are individuals, LLCs, or corporations.
Furthermore, if you look within the property’s Ownership tab, you will be able to see the individuals that own the asset along with their contact information.
Perform a Public Records Search
To search public records for a specific property, you will need to visit the website of the county recorder where the property is located. The search interface will vary widely by county.
Online county records databases typically offer limited search options – you can search by either owner’s name or property address. Most won’t allow you to search by asset class, for example. This can make searching public records for a range of properties within a certain category quite difficult.
Generally, you will need to enter either the owner’s name or property address exactly as it has been recorded in the database.
- For example, if you enter “9th Avenue” as the street address, but the database has the same address recorded as “Ninth Avenue,” your search may return no results.
Then comes the issue with property-owning LLCs. In such instances, you may need to perform additional searches to find the names and contact information of the individual owners associated with the LLC.
Furthermore, if an LLC consists of a large group of individuals, you may be unable to tell which of the members are directly involved with the property and thus the best ones to approach for your purposes.
Visit the County Recorder’s Office
While more and more counties offer online databases, there are still locales that only provide access to physical files which you will need to search in person. In those cases, you will literally have to visit the county recorder’s office.
Additionally, you will only be able to perform your search during normal business hours. Small county offices may have even more limited hours of operation.
Regardless of the method you choose, finding and analyzing property ownership history can be a fairly demanding task. With the right information however, you will be empowered to find more leads and close more deals.