Investing in real estate requires that the potential buyer perform their due diligence on a property. This includes checking to see if there are any mortgage, tax or other financial liens on the property in question. If there is a lien on the property, a potential buyer may have the option the pay that lien and assume ownership of the property after a certain amount of time has passed (this is the case with tax liens in certain states). You also do not want to purchase a property and then suddenly find out that money is owed, as it may become your responsibility.
Get the correct address of the property. This can be done by reading the street sign and corresponding house number which is marked on the house, curb or mailbox. It is important that you do not actually set foot on the property to gain this information, as that may be deemed trespassing.
Contact the County Assessor or local Tax Board. The County Assessor or local Tax Board will have public records pertaining to who owns the property, taxes paid or owed and the last sale date of the property. If there is a property tax lien, the county assessor will be able to tell you or direct you to their public website, where you can investigate the lien.
Search for a mortgage lien on that property in the local newspaper. If a home is being sold at a foreclosure auction, most states require that the notice of that sale be made public. The public notices will be posted in the paper and will detail what is owed on the property and when the foreclosure will take place. This usually must occur at least 21 days before the sale.
Work with a real estate agent. A real estate agent makes money from the seller's side of the transaction when homes are sold. This fee is historically six percent, with three percent going to the seller's representative and three percent going to the buyers. A real estate agent will have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which will detail any lien information. Since the agent only gets paid from the seller's side, it technically does not cost you any money.
You can also use foreclosure search websites. They usually provide an initial amount of information, such as homes that are facing foreclosure because of mortgage liens placed on the property. However, you may need to pay a subscription fee to get detailed information.