On top of being one of the largest, most populous states in the county, California also has one of the most active commercial real estate markets.
On the surface, the sheer volume of commercial real estate transactions might lead one to believe it’s easy to conduct a property owner search in California. It can be quite the opposite, however.
Without a robust, centralized database of California property records, industry professionals often struggle to find property owner information on a consistent basis.
In this article, we take a look at the best resources available to investors, brokers, lenders, and others when initiating a commercial property owner search in California.
Table of Contents:
- Use Reonomy TrueOwner
- Search California Public Records
- Listings and Other Alternative Tools
Property Owner Search California
Let’s start by putting things into context: More than 12% of the entire U.S. population – or an estimated 39 million people – live in the state of California.
Naturally, given the sheer size of California, there are an incredible amount of commercial properties. In fact, there are more than 3 million commercial properties in California.
The state’s commercial real estate is also fairly unique.
For instance, the median commercial lot size in California is less than 15,000 square feet, approximately 52% below the nationwide average. Not only are commercial properties in California smaller, they also tend to have smaller building areas (1,070 sq. ft. on average vs. 1,314 sq. ft. nationally) and tend to support fewer units per lot (17 vs. 21) on average.
The intricacies of the California real estate market make it imperative to be able to find ownership information with ease. The state provides a great deal of property and land, and a great deal of variety thereof.
There are a handful of tools that commercial real estate professionals can rely on when conducting a California property owner search. These tools will help people navigate property records, county by county, in a state that is mostly unmatched in terms of size and real estate complexity.
Use Reonomy TrueOwner
To avoid the hassle of searching through public records, Reonomy TrueOwner allows you to easily find properties that align with your needs—whether you’re a broker, investor, lender, roofer, appraiser, and so on.
With prospect properties in your line of sight, you can then see who the owning LLC or individual of the property is along with their contact information.
Find Your Target Properties
Let’s say you’re an investor looking to buy into a new market, or into an Opportunity Zone.
Maybe you’re a mortgage broker looking to find property owners in need of refinancing.
Examples of property searches could be:
**Each “+” represents an additional search filter.
- An office building
+in the MSA of San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
+of 30-50 units
+in an Opportunity Zone
+that has not been sold in 10 or more years.
- A multi-family home
+in San Diego County
+with a mortgage that originated 7-10 years prior
+with Bank of America as the lender.
- An industrial vacant land parcel
+in Sacramento County
+of at least 50 acres
+that has not been sold in 10 or more years.
You can quickly search any of these properties, including or excluding any individual layer of filtering, then easily dive into the owner details and contact information.
Access Ownership Details of a Property
Once you have found properties you’d like to pursue in one way or another, you can visit the profile page, and under the Ownership tab, see who the reported owner is.
From there, you can see the individuals associated with owning entity, in the likely case that it is an LLC.
You can also see the phone number, email address, and mailing address of the individuals involved in ownership if you’d like to reach out directly.
Search Portfolios by Owner Name
On the flip side, if you do know who the owner of a commercial property in California is and would like to see what other properties they own (in and outside of California), you can also use Reonomy to search by owner name or the owner of record.
To do this, simply enter the Reonomy search page and visit the Ownership tab.
Here, you can search for owning LLCs or individuals and see all of the commercial properties they own. From there, if you prefer, you can re-filter the results to sift through their portfolios more granularly.
Learn more about finding property owners in California here.
Search California Public Records
A different approach is to combine Reonomy’s TrueOwner tool with a detailed search of California public records.
While Reonomy frequently updates its database with new public records as they become available, it’s always beneficial for people to cross-reference data by searching California public records directly.
Using a combination of tools can often be the most comprehensive way to conduct a property owner search in California.
There are a number of different public sources to review when searching for property records California. In most cases, the best places to start is the county clerk where the property is located.
Here are examples for some of California’s largest counties:
Los Angeles County Clerk
With more than 10 million people living in Los Angeles County, tracking down a specific property owner may seem impossible.
A good place to start is by searching the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder, otherwise known as the County Clerk. Unfortunately, at this time, the LA County Clerk’s office does not allow people to search real estate records online.
Instead, the website provides information about how to access the documents in person and/or how to request hard copies of documents by mail. A person has to travel to the Clerk’s office in Norwalk, CA between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday, if they want to search property records in person.
It’s not the most convenient system, but it’s a way to obtain high-quality, reliable information about commercial property owners living in Los Angeles County.
Another option is to search the Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office, which compiles information from the Assessor, Auditor-Controller and Treasurer & Tax Collector to provide records related to a property owner’s tax bill.
One of the most valuable tools on this website is the feature that allows users to search for a property by address, assessor ID, intersection or your current location. The latter two options are relatively unique as far as assessors’ databases go.
Say you’re driving by a property and don’t know its exact address. This feature will help you with your property owner search California by plugging in the nearest cross streets or, alternatively, by allowing the website to locate you on your mobile device to provide options near your exact current location.
San Diego County Clerk
San Diego County, which has experienced an explosion of commercial real estate development during this market cycle, provides a one-stop-shop for people looking for California property records located in that county.
All records, including those you’d typically find at the Assessor, Recorder, or County Clerk’s Office, are all available in one central location.
The county website allows people to search all official public records at once. Users can search by deed and/or map book and page, document type, document number, property owner name, by date or by map number. As you can see, you can search a variety of ways – but this platform assumes you have access to this information. It makes searching a general area, such as La Jolla or Pacific Beach, much trickier.
San Francisco County Clerk
San Francisco County has been a darling of the real estate community for years. San Francisco County has benefitted from a tight labor market, strict commercial development regulations, and an influx of foreign investment.
That said, those who are interested in San Francisco-area real estate can turn to the City & County of San Francisco (CCSF) Office of Assessor-Recorder to track down property owner information.
The San Francisco Property Information Map is a tool maintained by San Francisco Planning Department, which gathers its information from various city departments throughout San Francisco (unlike most other counties, San Francisco County is comprised of just the City of San Francisco).
To search the SF Property Information Map, a user must know the assessor’s parcel number (APN) or address of the property. Once again, this makes conducting a property owner search in California more challenging – especially for those who are hoping to create a list of prospects and don’t have a strong starting point.
Riverside County Clerk
Riverside County also provides a few different tools for people interested in searching California property records. The Riverside County Recorder, for instance, allows people to search using Lexis Nexis to track down any recorded documents associated with a given person’s name.
Again, you need the person’s name to begin your search; in this case, not even a property address will suffice. Moreover, the Riverside County Recorder only has records available online that date back to 1980 which can be somewhat limiting for commercial real estate professionals trying to understand ownership changes over time.
Currently, the Riverside County Assessor does not provide online access to its records. The website indicates that assessor online services will be available soon, and will include a value notice lookup and property sales viewer, among other tools and services.
Listings and Other Alternative Tools
There are a few other platforms that people can look to in certain scenarios when conducting ownership research on properties in California.
Listings platforms, for example, while generally not useful for property owner searches, can sometimes be used to connect with owners—i.e. for-sale-by-owner listings.
These tools can be valuable, but will often require quite a bit of digging.
What’s more, these online databases tend to be limited in terms of scope of information they provide about California property records and owners.
Most listings platforms include thousands of properties. There’s no limit to property coverage when it comes to public records, and unmatched depth and breadth in Reonomy’s off-market property database.
Start Your California Property Owner Search Today
Tracking down accurate commercial property ownership information can be like finding a diamond in the rough.
It’s not easy, particularly if you have to mine multiple databases – and worse, have to mine those databases in person, as is the case in many California counties!
Reonomy takes the guesswork out of the process for commercial real estate professionals. It allows people to search for specific properties (or not – general areas can be evaluated, as well), and that search will uncover detailed information about the property ownership, even if ownership is veiled in an LLC or other alternative ownership entity.
While other online databases provide a starting point for people beginning their search, only Reonomy provides comprehensive, up-to-date information that makes prospecting new leads and commercial real estate deals easier than ever.