Discovering who holds a mortgage on a piece of property is necessary whenever a transaction will involve that property. A lawyer or real estate agent will usually order a title search from a title company to have an official record of this information, but it can be useful to know before you decide to purchase a property.
Discover the physical address to the property in question. You may do this by accessing the information on a real estate listing, a website such as Zillow.com or visiting the property itself. If the property is going up for auction or estate sale, the address can be obtained from the selling agent. This step may be skipped if you know the first and last names of the current owner, but it is still useful information to have.
Contact the tax assessment office, or visit its website, that would handle the taxes for that property. Be prepared to give the office the address of the property in which you are interested. A staff member should be able to give you the name of the current owner and possibly the book and page where you may find the current deed.
Visit the local circuit courthouse's public records in person or, if the agency has made records available online, the website. Each county and state has a different system, so be sure to ask an employee for assistance in showing you how to search the system.
Look up the current owner's name in the public records system. Most courthouses have converted the records to a computer system, but you may have to page through actual books. You will be presented with a list of documents that the current owner has filed for his property. Look at the deeds first and be sure to check the property description and address on the deed against the address of the property in question, since one person may have deeds to multiple properties.
Write down the instrument numbers (book and page) of the mortgages and/or deeds of trust that occur after the current owner was deeded the property.
Check the satisfactions of mortgage/deed of trust that occur after the current deed. Compare the document that is satisfied with your list of mortgages, crossing out each document as it has been satisfied. Any mortgage or deed of trust that does not have a satisfaction still affects the property.
Searching a piece of property can be a daunting task. Always be certain to check the property description on each document, to be certain it applies to the property in question. Also, for some names you may want to search different variations (i.e. Stephenopolous may also have been put into the system as Stevenopolous, Stefenopolous, etc.). Some title searches need to go back before the current owner and it is possible that a mortgage was not satisfied before the current owner took possession of the property. To be certain this is not the case, title companies perform Steps 1, 2 and 3 in section 2 for previous owners.
Most states require a title company, which carries title insurance, to perform a search before a property can be transferred. So be prepared for your search to be useful only for your own information.