Finding out who owns a parcel of property requires identifying the local government agency that records deed transfers and searching the agency's database by property address or land parcel number. In most localities, deed transfers are recorded at the county level by the office of the recorder of deeds.
A property's deed is considered a public record once it is filed with a government agency. Many localities make their land records database available online for searches by the public. Finding the name of a property owner in these localities is a simple matter of locating the website for the recorder's office and running a search in the database using the property address. For example, the website of the Office of the Assessor-Recorder for the county of San Francisco features a property search database that provides ownership information to anyone who uses the tool.
However, the land records database maintained by the office of the recorder in some localities does not provide property ownership information. Instead, researchers must use the database maintained by the office that handles property tax assessment. For example, the San Bernardino County recorder's office directs people who want property ownership information to the tax assessor's office.
If a county's recorder's office does not maintain an online database, a personal visit to the office to look at the deed transfer records is the best way to determine ownership of a parcel of property.