Public records often hold secrets. One of the secrets is how to find what you need, especially if you're a looking for something like mortgage information. A mortgage is a lien on the property, the financing document for real estate. The deed to the property may be encumbered, or not free and clear because of the mortgage. A deed of trust or mortgage deed transfers the property to a trustee until the borrower completes payments. Documents are filed in the public records so third parties, those not involved in the transaction, can be aware of the transfer and terms. You’ll need practically all the information in the records to find the mortgage deed.
Write out all the information you can get about the transaction. You’ll need the county or parish where the property is located, the names of the mortgagor and the mortgagee, a street address or property description and the date of the transaction. The mortgagee is usually the person who owned the property before the most recent transaction. The mortgagor is the current borrower and present owner of the land subject to the mortgage.
Locate the county clerk’s website if the county has records online. If you're in New York City or a large metropolitan area, the city register or the land records division holds the records. Use the information you know to develop search terms for your search on the website. If it is a recent transaction, you should be able to find the documents using the mortgagee’s name and approximate date of the transaction.
Telephone the county clerk’s office if you don’t find the information online. You won’t get the actual clerk. Give the clerk's assistant the mortgagor or mortgagee information and ask if the records reflect the transaction you need. Request a book and page number and ask what the procedure is to obtain copies of the documents. Some clerks accept credit cards and mail copies; others will require a written request detailing the documents you need and that you mail a check for copies and postage.
Visit the county clerk’s office in person if you must. Speaking of must, these books are dusty, musty, bulky and heavy. Some offices restrict the public to the front office while the staff looks for documents. Other clerks leave strangers to the task of figuring out the system, locating the information, finding a copy machine that works and paying for the copies in exchange for a receipt. If you are that stranger, ask for help from someone who looks as if he lives there. Oil and gas researchers often take up residence in the clerk's office.
- Copies often cost $1 to $5 a page and cost more to mail.
- Ask for help at the clerk's office when you need it. Your youth gives you a good excuse, but you won’t need one. Government offices such as the county clerk’s office are operated by elected officials who should want to impress you.
- Don’t try to understand the Grantor Grantee Index, the title to the tomes that probably hold the information you need. The grantor is the seller and the grantee is the buyer -- just the opposite of the mortgagor and mortgagee.
- When the mortgage is paid in full, a release and satisfaction cancels the mortgage deed or deed of trust. Locate this document if it exists, as it is an important part of the transaction history. Find the release and satisfaction under the name of the borrower. This document is filed after the original mortgage, so it will show a more recent date.