Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Online research for the Maryland real estate professional

The following is a guest post from our Title Searcher / Educational Coordinator Michelle Fine.


There was a time in the not too distant past when obtaining any information regarding a property required going to the Land Records Department at the Circuit Courthouse and doing research. This often entailed looking through books and pulling oversized plats out of cabinets.

Today in Maryland (and several other states), we have a much more modern option. Most documents regarding real estate properties are now available online, and in just a few moments and with a few clicks, you can do what formerly took hours.

Your first stop when trying to glean information about a property is State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT): On this site, you can look up your property by address, or Tax ID #. It’s simple to use, and requires no use of a password or user name. Here you can locate:

1. the property;
2. who owns it;
3. whether it's owner occupied;
4. the seller's mailing address;
5. the dimensions of both the land and the dwelling ;
6. whether it appears on a plat (and if so, a plat reference);
7. approximate age of the dwelling;
8. assessed value and how that assessment is being phased in; and
9. a history of recent transactions.

Your second stop is Maryland Land Records. This site does require a user name and password to access, but you can easily request one and usually receive confirmation within an hour. With the Liber and Folio that you have gleaned from SDAT you can look up the current title Deed, and with the seller's names, you can research Deeds of Trust, Mortgages, and other liens that have occurred while they have been in title. This is an invaluable tool both for listing and selling agents to make sure that they are aware of precisely who is in title, the description of the property including whether it is Leasehold or Fee Simple and whether it is on a plat or has a metes and bounds description, and an idea of what is owed on the property, including any Condominium or HOA liens.

Your third stop (assuming that the deed reflects that the property is located on a subdivision plat) is the Maryland Plat site. The site requires a usernameand password, but contact us if you need one and we can help you out. Here you can locate your particular lot and see its shape and relation to the community as a whole. The plat customarily provides any building restriction lines, and some easements that impact the property.

There are also a few other sites that we as title professionals use to fully research a property and the parties.

Maryland Judiciary website: Search for docket entries in most state Circuit and District Courts for liens and judgments filed against the parties.

Maryland State Department Database – Corporations and other entities: This is used to check to make sure that an entity selling or buying a property exists to do business in the State of Maryland, and that they are in good standing.

Pacer access to MD Bankruptcy Courts: (this site does require a fee for use): This site is used to check for bankruptcies against the parties involved in the transaction.


Too much information? Send us an email at info[at]MASettlement[dot]com and we'll do the research for you!