How can I effectively research the chain of title from home?

I hired a title researcher to show me the ropes on researching title prior to bidding at the auction. I am now comfortable in my ability to identify the deed in first position, BUT I really feel better reviewing the actual title docs to make sure everything matches up as it should. They guy I hired taught me at the county clerk recorders office, and on their computers you can view the actual docs in the title index, but from home you can view the title index but not the docs. My big questions on this are 1) Is there a way to view the title docs for free from home? 2) Do most people just go off the information that foreclosure radar and the online title index gives without reviewing the actual docs? and 3) Does anyone have any suggestions on the best way to review title prior to the auction?

I don’t know of any way to get full documents for free at home. You either buy them from a service (such as Foreclosure Radar), or you have a longstanding relationship with a title company and they might send you some docs. However, they don’t really want to send you every single document to look at. I usually only ask them to send me certain docs that are really critical such as IRS liens or other unusual docs

“Do most people just go off the information that foreclosure radar and the online title index gives without reviewing the actual docs?”

I’m afraid some might, but hope not, and strongly recommend against it. Like GJ said the cheapest alternative is to build a good relationship with a title co. Sometimes the recorder is close to the steps and you can run by and look at docs on your way to the auction. We certainly sell the docs, provide tools for entering title details, and have a checklist - which can all help as well.

Hi Mark,
I would encourage you to do a full title search. Many investors don’t cover the full basics when performing there search. Without doing a full search could be a costly mistake. My recommendation would be to build a relationship with a title officer, like myself.

I would echo the advice offered by Sean and Ryan. For the properties I’ve purchased at the trustee sales, I used both Foreclosure Radar (indispensable) and “cheeks-in-the-chair” time down at the recorder’s office. I personally would not bid unless I had done my own research. I used a property research worksheet (of my own creation) to verify/document loan position, but FR includes online tools that allow you to capture good notes and data on each target property. One big benefit of doing your own “hairy eyeball” review of a property at the recorder’s office, is the ancillary info you’ll often find, that won’t show up in a title report. For example, you can often find out info (e.g. lis pendis [lawsuits], support judgments, etc.) versus an owner that may indirectly impact the property and tip you off as to the disposition of the owner. A few tips when doing your own look/see at the recorder’s office: 1) Be sure to check the name(s) of ALL owners … and then check again. Look for variations of the owner(s)’ name that are similar. Some people, especially foreigners, may have aliases or unusual names that are recorded improperly. Look carefully at the APN to verify. (yep, names are slightly “off”, but it is indeed the same APN). The old adage “measure twice, cut once” is very much true when researching a property. 2) Verify reconveyance (payoff) of ALL loans senior (recorded prior) to the loan that is going to auction at the trustee sale. 3) Look for subordination agreements as they can change loan seniority. 4) triple check to make sure any/all pesky HELOCs have been reconveyed (paid off), esp if they are senior to the loan interest you are looking to buy at the steps (trustee sale). Another tip … if you see that a BK has been filed, and it has delayed the trustee sale of a loan that you’d like to acquire, consider a subscription to PACER. I have uncovered a wealth of info on BK status that lets me know whether/when a BK may be discharged … which is sometimes when the property may go to sale. One other point, doing last minute research at the recorders office is sometimes necessary (last minute bid posted), but it is always easier if you have already done extensive research on your target property. Hence, I recommend building a research inventory (so to speak) of your favorite potential properties. That means time spent at the recorder’s office days/weeks in advance of the trustee sale date. If a bid gets posted on your subject property, I will make a quick run back to the recorder’s office to triple check my work and see if anything new have been filed. Much less stressful that having to do full-blown research only minutes before a sale.

Hi Ryan: My Name is Hershel please let me know how to contact you. thanks