When tax money flows between people and government, it often leaves a “public record,” a trail. You can use this public record to discover who owns a building. Realtors follow these trails for every house we handle, looking for back taxes, foreclosure motions, sibling squabbles, snarly divorces, and other afflictions.
To find your own trail, start at the Assessor’s Office in your town. Here’s Portland’s.
Input the street and/or street number you’re curious about. You’ll get a list of properties and tax accounts on that street; if you have the street number you’ll get just that property.
Click the account number at the left of the property you’re interested in, which will take you to that property’s “assessor’s card.” Cumby’s card, for instance, looks like this, and will contain allllll manner of info, including when it last changed hands, and for how much money. And a pretty picture, so you can be sure you’re looking at the right thing.
Now write down the “Book and Page” numbers from the card. We’re going to find the deed for this property at the Registry of Deeds. Here’s Cumberland County’s.
Office: Recorded Land
Search Type: Volume
Volume (Book): 7282
GO! Up comes the result list, from which you select that tiny magnifying glass image labeled, “View img.”
And voila. There’s the deed, the public record of the last time that property changed hands.
It gets a lot funner than that, but also a lot more wordy. But just for fun, click one of those names that appears to the right of the deed…