Perhaps the neighbours didn’t know how to get a hold of the owner, and you had no idea where to start.
Or have you ever wondered how much somebody paid for a property? And what size mortgage they used when they purchased?
If you’ve ever wondered how to get the answers you’re looking for, there is a way to do it yourself… but it does take a little bit of ‘legwork’ and maybe a little bit of cash.
You’ll be able to find out:
- How much the owner paid for the property
- What was the size of their mortgage
- Who was their lender, plus much more
And if you’re trying to contact the owner, while it doesn’t guarantee you will be able to get their phone number, it will guarantee that you will get a mailing address.
But wait… Isn’t the owner’s mailing address the same as the property address?
No, not necessarily. And especially if the property is vacant – chances are they have a service address somewhere else, maybe even in another city or another province.
Property Tax Assessments
Most people don’t realize it, but tax records belong to the public record. That means anyone, anywhere can go into a government office and inspect the property tax assessments of all the properties in that city or town.
In some areas, the municipality allows this information to be searched free of charge from their websites. For example, the City of Calgary has one of the best (and coolest!) tools to search assessment information online.
In other cities (like Ottawa), they have deferred online property assessment searches to the provincial authority.
In Ontario, that’s the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) and they provide a wealth of information about Ontario properties (although you are limited to 100 searches and you must be a property owner to access the search tool).
If you haven’t watched the video I posted on my website about how to lookup property assessments yourself, I’ve provided a link to the video at the end of this article.
Tax Records Office
The problem with online assessment searches is that the information provided is usually fairly limited. Often times, you will not be able to see property details and definitely not a service address for the owner.
That’s where the tax records office comes into the picture. Every city and town has this information available in printed form (or should!).
In Ottawa, for example, I simply go into a local city branch office and ask to search the tax records.
In the past, the staff workers guided me to a separate room with many books of printed assessment records. Today, those records are available out in the open.
These records not only include tax assessment information (not the total tax bill), they also show the property address and, most importantly, the owner’s mailing address.
In fact, the tax records are the ONLY place where you’re guaranteed to get the owner’s current address. Why is that?
If they don’t receive the tax bill in the mail
and they don’t pay their property taxes,
they will lose their property to a tax sale!
Usually the owner’s property address and mailing address are the same, but for vacant properties or out of town owners, the address will be different.
Once you have their mailing address, you can try doing a reverse address lookup on Canada 411 to determine their phone number, or you could just mail them a letter asking them if they’d like to sell their property.
All property titles can be searched at your local courthouse (for a small fee). In some cities and provinces, a Land Titles or Land Registry system is used where everything is being migrated to an electronic system.
In other areas, paper records are used. Sometimes you will need to do both to get a complete picture of a property’s title.
A title search can provide a lot of useful information about the property. You can find out:
- The owner’s name (and sometimes their current mailing address)
- When the property was purchased
- What the owner paid for the property
- How much was the mortgage when they purchase it
- Who the lender was
- Even exact details of their mortgage, including interest rates and more!
It’s great that all this information is part of the public record, but you’ll be surprised to know that most people think this information is private…
- Ever try asking a seller what they paid for the property? Often times they won’t tell you.
- What about the size of their mortgage? “None of your business” they might say.
Now that you know how to find all this information, you CAN make it your business and you can use it to your advantage in negotiations, use it to find absent owners, and more.
I highly recommend if you have never done a title search or a tax assessment lookup, you go down to your local courthouse and city office and do it.
Try it for your own property, or better yet, try it for a property that you’re interested in buying. You’ll be amazed at what you find out.