While the easiest way to find out if your neighbor has a mortgage is simply to ask, there are other ways to get this information. When a person takes out a mortgage to buy a property, the document is registered with the local land registry agency. It then becomes a matter of public record, and anyone who wishes to access this information - and pay any required fees - can do so.
Search Courthouse Records
The property records for the house in question will be stored with the clerk of court for the county where the property is located. If you need assistance finding your courthouse's information, you can search this free directory.
To obtain the information you are seeking, you'll need to do the following:
- Call the county courthouse and inquire about how to do a Property Identification Number (PIN) search using the address. The process is different for every county; some are more automated than others.
- Once you have that number, visit the courthouse and find out where the records room is. Note that the hours for this room may be different from the hours for the rest of the courthouse.
- When you enter the room, you will have to fill out a form stating which records you would like to see. Enter the PIN for the home and state that you are looking for the tax records on the property.
- Finally, hand that form to the person at the desk to make your request.
You may be able to see the record for free, but you will most likely have to pay if you want to retain a copy of it. Fees vary per county.
Note that the tax record will give you the original amount of the mortgage recorded, but not the current balance. The county does not keep detailed records of mortgage payments made by homeowners. The record will be updated when the loan is paid off, because there will be a transfer of ownership per se, from the mortgage company to the homeowner.
Do an Online Search
You can often learn about whether a property is currently mortgaged using a site offering information gleaned from property records. However, these sites may not have the most up-to-date information, or they may be missing a particular record altogether.
- NETR Online is an excellent source to start with. Not only does it offer a paid public records search, but it will also link you to an assessor's office in your state where you may be able to access the information for free. In some cases, you will need to enter the property owner's name to conduct a search.
- Courthouse Direct gives site visitors the opportunity to conduct a highly targeted search for mortgage and other public record information. Start by clicking the state where you live, then the county. Select property reports and then deed reports. For $5, you can get a record that includes the current loan amount (if there is one) and type.
- NextAce can provide not only mortgage information, but information on any other liens on the property as well. You can access a full title search on the property for $99.95.
In addition to these paid search sites, your state or county government may operate a website with property records information for its jurisdiction. Keep in mind that government websites end with .gov. Look for URLs with that extension to be sure you are on an official site that is safe to use for public records information.
Ask Your Realtor
Licensed and active real estate agents have access to the Multiple Listing Service as well as easy online access to public property records. If you are interested in learning if your neighbor took out a mortgage on the property because you are using the information while selling your home or buying another in the area, she will be able to tell you whether your neighbor has a mortgage or not. Your Realtor will be able to tell you how large of a loan the homeowner initially used, but will not have access to the current balance.
Ask the Neighbor
If you'd like the information for free, it's best to request it in person. Before requesting the facts about another person's property, it's a good idea to think about if you really need the information. Asking too much about a neighbor's business may not be the way to keep the relationship a positive one, especially if you are not particularly close with your neighbor.
- If you decide to ask, approach your neighbor politely by asking if they have a mortgage on their home in casual conversation when you run into them outside. (It would probably be too aggressive to them if you knock on their door to ask this question.)
- Preface your question by saying whether or not you have a mortgage on your house. Indicate that you are interested in selling your home and are trying to get a feel for where the neighborhood stands.
- Another way to go about asking is to offer information on the type of loan you have, stating that you are interested in learning if you're in the best deal with your mortgage company by comparing your information with friends.
Weigh the Pros and Cons
Unless you are looking to purchase your neighbor's home or you are selling your own, this information is probably not particularly relevant to you. It may be best not to rock the boat by asking them. However, if you'd still like the information, it may be available to you from any of the above resources.