Colorado’s county and local governments offer a great deal of information regarding land ownership online. That’s a good place for an interested party to start their search for land ownership records, but such a listing does not necessarily establish legal title to a property. Even though you may find land ownership records online, you can’t purchase property requiring a mortgage based on this information.
You may want to search records to find out who owns a parcel affecting your life in some other manner. That’s true of an unkempt property near your home that may lower the quality of life – and the market value of adjacent houses – in your neighborhood. You may suspect criminal activity going on at a location. While the land ownership records are useful, you should work with your local government entities and the police if you have a complaint.
In most of Colorado's counties, the online procedure is straightforward. It is simply a matter of entering the property address or the parcel number or the purported owner’s name. The county records include deeds, mortgages, and other relevant documentation, but how much of it is available online depends on the county. You may want to arrange a visit to the county clerk’s office to view land records not yet posted online. This is often useful for people interested into delving into land records with the purpose of conducting genealogical research, but it’s also a way to find out how the land was used in the past.
If you want to know the assessed value of a property as well as the ownership, check out the county assessor’s office. However, not every county assessor’s office has its data online. If that’s the case, you must contact the county assessor’s office directly for information.
The State Land Board Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provides data regarding mineral, oil and gas, agricultural and recreational land ownership and leases, along with hunting lands, commercial tower sites and strategic property disposal areas.
County websites offer the disclaimer that the information provided is general and not used for the purposes of establishing legal title. Such websites are also not current, although many counties try to update information within a few days of property changing title. Other counties update information less often, perhaps monthly or more.
Looking for land records on county websites is often free, with the exception of downloadable reports and document copies. However, you may want more information than available on a public site. There are many commercial websites that will provide you with more in-depth information about a property and its history, for a fee. Since these websites run the gamut from very good to scams, get a recommendation from a real estate professional before signing on with any such site.
If you are buying real estate in Colorado and require a lender, you need the services of a title company. Otherwise, the lender will not approve the mortgage. If paying cash for property, you may not have to do a title search, but it’s unwise and your lawyer will argue against it. You could find out the title isn’t clear and end up with a big legal problem on your hands, or find the property virtually impossible to sell.
Anytime property changes hands, mistakes can occur. Those mistakes may involve the deed itself and/or parcel sizing. A title company investigates the title status and also checks to see if there are liens on the property that make affect a sale. Even if the information an individual finds in an online land search is relatively accurate, it may not include old easements and rights-of-way that a title search uncovers or any property restrictions. A title company ferrets out that crucial information, which can change conditions of a sale or stop it cold. At the time of closing, both the seller and the lender or buyer pays for title insurance – a buyer with a mortgage pays the lender’s fee – and each policy protects that party’s interests in a clear title.
Whatever your reason for searching for land records, a real estate attorney can help guide through any eventual purchase, whether for residential, commercial, or investment purposes.
Need help understanding what forms and required documentation you need for your next property purchase? Click here to download our checklist of forms you need when buying real estate in Colorado.
Topics: Land Ownership in Colorado
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