Are Mortgage Records Public?

Posted by CourthouseDirect.com Team - 12 October, 2016

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Public records enable society to stay informed about people, properties, taxes, and other issues. Freedom of Information (FOI) laws give the public access to certain data held by the government. The public has a right to receive information easily and at minimal cost to promote government openness and transparency. This information includes court documents, marriage certificates, and public mortgage records.

Why Access Mortgage Records?

There are several reasons why you may want access to the mortgage records on a property:

  • Mortgage records on a foreclosed home can give prospective buyers a competitive advantage during the bidding process.
  • Mortgage records can provide important information and insight about the current owners, such as how motivated they may be to sell the property.
  • Mortgage records show how much the owner borrowed on a home or how often the property has been listed for sale, which can help you decide how much to offer.
  • Mortgage records show when the lender transferred the mortgage to another lending company.
  • Mortgage records help determine the current value of the property.

When Do Mortgage Records Become Public?

When a homeowner receives a home deed, he or she must file the original deed with the appropriate government office. This is often the duty of the escrow agent or title agent. The home deed proves that ownership has transferred from one owner to another. The process of bringing the deed to the recorder’s office is called “recording” the deed. This is the only way the transfer is legally recognized. Deeds that are properly recorded reach the office within two weeks to three months after the house closes.

Each state has different laws, called “recording statutes,” regarding home deeds and mortgage documents. Although the requirements vary from state-to-state, each state requires the formal recording of real property in a county office in order to be valid. This means that almost every properly recorded property will have a mortgage record on public file (provided there have been any mortgages).

Soon after the homeowner closes a mortgage, the information becomes part of the public record. The public can access these documents from the state recorder’s office or using an online public records search for the duration of the loan. Once the homeowner pays the full amount of the mortgage, the lender releases it. After this time, the lender can no longer sell the mortgage to another lender.

People can discover much vital information by accessing public records. Such information includes determining whether the owner removed the property from the market, for example, and then relisted it. Removal and relisting can point to something wrong with the house, or it could mean the owner was simply testing the market and may be willing to sell at a lower price point. All of this information, and more, is available thanks to FOI laws.

How to Access Public Mortgage Records

First, obtain the information you’ll need about the current homeowner. Sometimes knowing the person’s name is enough, but it’s best to have the property’s full street address too. Find out in which state and county the property is located, and contact the appropriate recorder’s office. You also can access the clerk’s official website and download the mortgage documents online. Enter the homeowner’s information as the form requires, and pay any necessary fees.

Look for deeds used for mortgages, find the one in which you are interested, and open the copy of the mortgage documents. Here you will find the property’s legal description, address, lender, mortgage amount, and other information related to the property. You often can download the file or print it out. Public mortgage records are great help for making an offer on a home.

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Topics: Courthouse Documents


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