How do you check your deed? How do you find your deed online? How do I check titles in Registry of Deeds?

Q: In one of your recent columns, a widow asked about getting the deed to her house after her husband died. You told her to check her deed from time to time to be sure no liens had been added. How does one do that? Can it be done online or do you need to go to a city government office? Thank you.

Checking your deed is (almost) as easy as checking your credit online

A: Good question. So much of our financial lives is available online. You can look up your bank accounts (or download your bank’s app), trade stocks, or get your credit history and score. But managing your personal financial hygiene isn’t always straightforward, and being able to access details of your financial life is different from understanding what it all means.

For example, you can access your credit history from a variety of places: or directly from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and Transunion), or even through a company like Credit Karma.

Deciphering that information, however, can be challenging. Simply seeing a piece of negative information, like a bill that you paid late, is different from understanding what that says about your creditworthiness to current and prospective creditors via your credit score.

In short, it’s relatively easy to check your credit. It’s more difficult to understand how your credit history might affect your financial life.

How to check your deed or title

Checking the status of your deed, or title – and understanding what you’re looking at – is even more difficult. Online property record websites are difficult to discern at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to look over documents and make sure your title is in good shape.

While you can still go down to the courthouse or local government office to get title information, online property record websites usually show almost all the information a real estate professional needs to know about the title to a home from the time the website charts the property records for the home until present day.

Check your deed on the local recorder of deeds’ website

We hope you’re lucky enough to live in an area where the local office that handles the filing and recording of real estate documents has a free online portal where you can view the documents that affect the title to your home.

If you do, and you have access to the online website, you’ll likely need your property identification number or other identification number that the municipality uses for your property to look up your property’s records. You enter that number into the site, and the site should pop up a list of documents that affect that property number.

The list should include deeds conveying ownership from a seller to a buyer, government ordinances that may be specific to your home, recorded mortgages, recorded releases of mortgages, other liens and other releases of liens, recorded utility easements, recorded covenants, recorded plats of subdivision, and so on.

Use your property ID number to search the title records

You should look at the list from today’s date and go backwards in time. Some property records list hundreds of items. These might include any liens that were filed and released (from contractors or the IRS, for example). You’ll also see the deed from your sellers, and from their sellers. You should be able to follow the deed trail all the way back to the first recorded deed. This will depend on how complete local property records are in your area.

You’re looking for any document that was recorded recently, or since you purchased the home. You’ll see a notification for every mortgage you took out on the home. But you should also see the release for every mortgage you paid off over the years.

Does the title record list anything since you purchased the home? If not, then you’re set. Is there something that shows you selling the home when you have not? Is there a mortgage or lien that you can’t identify? That may be a problem, although lenders sometimes assign their mortgage interest to another lender.

It’s important to regularly check your deed 

Given rampant identity theft and digital personal financial fraud, keep an eye on what you own. If your local recorder of deeds office doesn’t have property records online and you still want to view the documents, call the office. Find out if you need to make an appointment or can just walk in. You should also ask what requirements they have for viewing documents. You may need to bring in proof of ownership, like a tax bill, and valid identification.

Read more about deeds:

Where is the deed to my house?

What is a deed of trust?

Should I set up a trust or use a transfer-on-death (TOD) deed?

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