The easiest way to find out whether there's a lien against a property is to hire a title company to prepare a title report. Alternatively, search county tax records to find out whether a lien has been recorded.
Liens can be recorded or unrecorded. Recording means to file a record of the lien with the county recorder's office. Recordation makes the lien a public record. Public records are open for anyone to review.
A recorded lien can be viewed at the recorder's office in the county where the property is located. In some cases, records can be searched online. Otherwise, go to the recorder's office to search for the deed. Deeds usually can be searched by owner's name, street address or parcel identification number. Lien and other information can be included in the search.
A title search company may be needed to definitively determine whether a property has an unrecorded lien. An unrecorded lien hasn't been made part of the public record, so it's more difficult to find. However, a title company can trace a property's complete chain of ownership. The chain shows all the individuals and businesses that have owned the property or, as in the case of lienholders, have had ownership interest in it.