Try And Do Your Own Free Property Lien Search

Plowing through the auction lists (even with the magnificent tool that is PropertyOnion.com) pulls up more properties than any one person can handle in terms of research. Even though we offer an inexpensive $45 Title Search Report, you can cut down on the number of reports you order by eliminating the properties that don’t meet your own personal criteria of title encumbrances.

Updated 10-04-2021

A title encumbrance is anything that is legally attached to the title of the property like mortgages, other liens, and judgments. Learning how to do your own free property lien search will save you money in the future.

Of course, everybody’s criteria are different. Some thrive on heavily lien-laden properties because they know how to remedy some, if not all, of them after the auction for pennies on the dollar. Others seek the simple life and want to work with just mortgage or HOA foreclosures with few encumbrances.

If you’re like me and easily get confused with a jumble of out-of-sequence information and don’t want to spend $45 on every property that takes your fancy, you need to get organized with your research.

How It’s Done

Over the years, I have developed a step-by-step method. With a little effort, patience, and practice, you’ll learn to quickly figure out how entrenched in encumbrances, liens, and judgments a property is. This same method is employed in one form or another by professional abstractors and companies.


Member’s Only: Download “Free Property Lien Search Made Easy E-Book” for detailed steps!


You’ll need a computer setup with preferably a minimum of two monitors. Yes, one-monitor setups will work, but it will take longer and be more difficult. With monitors costing less than a bag of French fries these days, why wouldn’t you get another?

Access to the internet is obviously required so you can log on to PropertyOnion.com and the county public records search. Finally, you will need the wondrous program Microsoft Excel or a similar spreadsheet program like Google Sheets or Apple Numbers. Pick your favorite.

To start, grab all of the important auction information fields and values from the PropertyOnion.com property detail page, such as auction defendants, auction plaintiffs, final judgment amount, case number, and property legal description. Place the information into your spreadsheet in one column.

Copy data to spreadsheet
Copy important fields from our property detail page to your Spreadsheet.

Now it’s time to search for encumbrances in your county’s official records search. This is where all legal documents are recorded, indexed, and made available for everyone to search and view.

Most county official records searches allow you to search back into the 90s or beyond, so limit the searches to the date the defendant bought the property and after. The date the property was purchased by the defendant is listed on PropertyOnion.com’s property detail page.

Once the date filter is set, enter the defendant’s name and press search. You should now see all of the liens that are shown against them, which are not necessarily for the property you are interested in. You must filter out entries that are not the ones being auctioned. Make sure you do this for each of the defendants (you might want to try some name spelling variations as well).

From here, copy and paste the search information from the county public records website into the spreadsheet in a list format. Let the spreadsheet program help you do the rest; it can sort and group all of the liens and mortgages in order of date and separately all the satisfactions and releases of past mortgages and liens.

Once the recorded documents are separated by date and type of record, take a few minutes to search each of the mortgages and other liens together with the satisfaction or released documents on the public records website. Place the book and page numbers against each recorded document in the spreadsheet.

Copy paste County records to spreadsheet
Copy all the liens and judgements from official records to your spreadsheet

All you have to do now is simply match the book and page numbers from each mortgage or other encumbrance with a satisfaction or released recorded document. What’s left unpaired are the open encumbrances on the property.

You now have a clear picture of what you are dealing with. Since they are in date order, you can easily see which mortgages and other liens take precedence over the others.

How to Use Your Property Lien Search

This practice of pairing has helped me figure out what is going on with the title of a particular property numerous times. The best part is that I did not have to waste $50 on a title search to find out that a property does not meet my encumbrance criteria.

What is surprising, though, is that an auction property with numerous liens against it that looks extremely daunting and risky suddenly becomes attractive once you organize and check off or pair the matching liens. I have called this method “pairing.” It’s simple to learn and I love it!


Member’s Video: ▶️ Watch the detailed video version of this article here! ▶️


If I decide to bid on a particular property at the county foreclosure auction after I am done pairing my list, I always buy a title search report to check that I have not missed anything. I am not a professional abstractor and can easily overlook something or not paste information correctly. It’s better to spend $45 or $50 to have a professional double-check my work with a title search than spend hundreds of thousands on a property with a mortgage that doesn’t go away after I win the bidding!

My method of pairing is not a replacement for a professional title search; it’s simply a way to whittle down a long list of properties you are interested in bidding on.

When I am in the swing of things, I can knock out my own title search report in less than 15 minutes for a complex property and less than 10 minutes for a simpler case. If I come across something that doesn’t make sense, I will call our real estate attorney for an explanation in a quick consultation session.

A good real estate attorney like mine will explain the rationale of a certain “Impossible, this can’t be right” situation that comes up now and then. That empowers me with knowledge that I can employ time and time again with either the same or a similar type of title problem in the future. That’s how I have gained a large amount of knowledge on the interaction of encumbrances and title with regards to the county auction game.

You’ll Be Doing Your Own Property Lien Searches in No Time

There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to quickly pick up the same skills I have when researching properties for the county auctions. When I first started in the Florida foreclosure auction market in 2012, I would look at these public records and think “Oh my gosh.” Now I can read them like a simple information sheet, all thanks to my pairing method. If I can do it, so can you.

This month I decided to share how to create a free property lien search system FOR FREE with our PropertyOnion.com premium members. I felt selfish keeping it all to myself and a few other colleagues here in the office, so I wrote an e-book here and made a hands-on video here showing exactly how to perform this simple pairing method.

For those of you who iron clothes (and I am one of them), looking at a pile of laundry is a lot like looking at a property with lots of liens. Once you start the process it becomes quite cathartic, and when you finish you look around for more. Happy pairing!

Tony Stern

Born and educated in the UK, Tony began his real estate career in 1976. By 1982 Tony launched a real estate development firm. In the 1990’s he created, acquired & sold several companies including Star Refining an international precious metal refining company with offices around the world. Since 2001 Tony has been investing in all aspects of real estate, concentrating on the Florida foreclosure market. Seeing a need to help investors, in 2016 Tony co-founded, PropertyOnion.com.

2 thoughts on “Try And Do Your Own Free Property Lien Search”

  1. user nameMoneic Miller says:

    I found myself doing my own research years ago at 23 years old. I was living in upstate N.Y and wanted to purchase a second home in Florida. I flew down to florida to sign the papers after the bank accepted my offer. I was excited to find a great deal until I learned a judgement for $10,000 extra was in effect. I never did sign which on my part I regret now. The house was three years old in great shape. I made an offer for
    $ 34,000.00 the bank came back offering $ 33,000.00. The value of the house and property was set at
    $185,000.00. Here I am twenty three years later never did buy that second home. However, I do live in Florida and I’m looking to purchase my second home in the near future. Being educated makes a big difference saving you time and money. My Lesson learned, Never pass up an opportunity over having cold feet. Thank You Tony for sharing your story alot has changed in twenty three years.

    1. user nameTony Stern says:

      Moneic, experience is a wonderful thing, especially when deployed for your own benefit.

      All of us have regrets about the deal we should have bought, but it all balances out over time.

      I never forget a saying that my mentor gave me many years ago: “Some of the best deals I have done are the ones I did not do.”

      I am sure 23 years on, you have a better idea of what you want, and you will deploy all your experience this time out.

Leave a Reply

Log in or Register before you can comment.

You May Also Like

The Certificate of Sale Is Not a Certificate of Title, and Why the Difference Matters!

Won an Auction? The Certificate of Sale Entitles you to NOTHING, Here’s Why

strange odd news

18 Weird but True Real Estate Facts & Stories

Is Adding Solar Panels to Your Next Flip Worth It?

Is Adding Solar Panels to Your Next Flip Worth It?

Here's Why Institutional Lenders are Buying Up All the single family homes

Why Institutional Investors Are Buying Up Single Family Homes

Join 1,000s of Home Buyers, Investors, and Professionals using PropertyOnion.com
with a 100% free account today.

"Thank you for your terrific support,
and prompt response. I wish I had
found you before I overpaid for an
MLS deal."

William Genske, Investor