Researching Title before Auction Sale in Los Angeles County CA


For LA County aside from relying on tile co customer service or going to county recorder myself to verify how do I do a cursory check to:

  • verify lien position
  • look for other liens (irs/city/private party) and their dollar amounts?

How do we double check title for these properties if we are looking at 40-50 properties/day?

I know we can use netr online but since you can’t look at documents I don’t know what we can really do with that, except know if there are other potential items that we may want title cust service to look into or go down to the recorders office ourselves to investigate right?

I understand that most recorders offices at the county level in CA publish their documents online for free but for whatever reason since LA doesn’t I’m trying to figure out a way to be able to do quick checks myself without having to burden my title co.'s customer service with 40-50 lookups per day (researching at the recorders office seems time prohibitive too if I’m going to be driving properties and comping myself) I’m only looking at a few select zip codes less than 10 within LA county

If you’re using Internet resources (online) most county recorders’ officers will, at no cost, provide their index of documents (e.g. DOTs, reconveyances, liens, etc.) for a particular grantor/grantee search you input. This superficial look/see is helpful, but lacks the necessary detail provided in the full document. For example when looking at a DOT it’s very important to note the recording date + doc number (e.g. 6/12/2005 & 2005-006789) verify the APN, $ loan amount, lender, and property description. Only the doc number and rec date can be found in the index. Hence you either:

  1. (my preference) need to go down the the recorder’s office, where you can access the full doc images … or
  2. you need to pay a local title abstractor (often a freelancing title company researcher - $25 per property on average)
  3. work directly with a title company who will do the research for free in the hope you will give them an escrow or two (you will rapidly wear out your welcome if you’re asking for more than 1 “freebie” prelim report per week)
  4. you need to pony up “big bucks” (about $500+ per month) for a “full view” a subscription service (e.g. TitlePoint) that pays the counties for full access to their databases. If you have a deep pocket, the online title research subscription fee may not be an issue. For many one-man/woman operations, that $500 monthly fee is prohibitive.

Regardless of the costs, you would have to have a decent sized and well-trained team (3+ people full-time) to complete thorough research on 40-50 properties per day. I know of only one steps investor team that comes close to that volume of research.

The average time it takes to “thoroughly” research a property can vary widely … from 5 minutes to 3 hours … in some cases even longer. On average (based on my experience) I’d say it most commonly takes about 25 minutes to do a “complete” (looking at everything on record) job. Again that’s just the “mode.” The “mean” takes a bit longer (about 30 minutes) as there are a few properties that can take hours to complete. Take this info FWIW as that’s just my experience. I know a few seasoned title abstracters that can do the job quite a bit faster. I take a bit longer, but I believe in that old adage … “measure twice and cut once” (I look at more than just the “mission critical” docs).

I think you’ll find that most steps investors look at many properties each/every day (10 to 100) and do quite a bit of preliminary research using FR tools/data… inputting some prelim data into FR such as ratings, notes, photos, etc. Only when the property gets close to auction or gets an “opening bid” posted, do they do the full monty of research down at the recorders office (often the morning of the auction). This means you need to move/react quickly, but speed in this instance literally pays. There are also a few “trophy” properties that are coming down the road wherein I’ve done full research well before that auction. Since postponements are common, this work can be saved and expanded/updated when the property comes up again.