Harris County is the most populous county in Texas and the third most populous county in the U.S. with more than 4.5 million residents.
To the general public, that might not mean a ton. But to CRE professionals of any kind, that signals a gigantic pool of opportunity to dive into.
Successfully combing through that pool of opportunity to find those of most value to you is typically a matter of having access to the right property and ownership information.
To find commercial property information in Harris County, CRE professionals often first try the county clerk.
With that, we’ll look at how you can search and find different pieces of property and ownership information using the Harris County Clerk, then look at why that may no longer be the go-to move for CRE professionals.
Harris County Clerk
The Harris County Clerk, Stan Stanart, services the county by recording documents and deeds for property transactions while maintaining and issuing copies of those documents to the necessary parties.
Real property documents, deeds, and other details are housed on the county clerk website. Those records can easily be searched online.
Below, we’ll show you the different ways that you can search Harris County property records using the county clerk website, and the pieces of information you need to do so.
We’ll look at the following:
Harris County Clerk Records Search
Even though “records search” can mean a few different things on the Harris County Clerk’s website, including marriage licenses, birth and death records, and so on, a large portion of that refers to property records.
It’s important to know how to navigate the site in order to get the most informational value possible, and of course to avoid potentially wasting time that could be spent more efficiently.
You can start off by searching for a specific property, then once you’ve searched, dive into the documents and deeds associated with that property. There, you can find and pull the information that you need, whether it’s ownership, sales information, location-based information, or anything else.
Harris County Clerk Real Property Records
There are a number of different pieces of information that you can use to search for recorded real property documents on the Harris County Clerk website.
That includes the number and date of the document, block and lot delegations, grantor and grantee names, legal descriptions, and much more.
It may even be helpful to run a quick search only by date to see how the results and their related information are broken down, and then take your search from there.
According to the Harris County Clerk site itself, searching with a File Number, “provides the fastest search results.” In other words, this is the piece of information you can use to immediately find a single document of interest.
The file number quite simply refers to the recording number attached to the document you’re looking for. Examples of a file number in Harris County could be:
- R123456 (Used in 2005 and prior)
- 2006123456 (Used from 2006 to 2015)
- RP-2018-123456 (Used from 2016 to present day)
File numbers in Harris County have changed over the years, so essentially your search will depend on the age of the record you’re searching.
Through 2005, file numbers were simply one letter followed by numbers, added to each document sequentially. From 2006 to 2015, they began incorporating the year in the beginning of the file number. For recent documents, you’ll see the “RP-2018-123456” format.
Whatever the case may be, your File Number search must be at least 7 characters long, so you cannot just search “RP-2018.” The last section, as you might imagine, is the real differentiator between recordings.
If you know the file number on a document and are looking to view that document, it doesn’t get more straightforward than this.
Searching with a Film Code is very similar to searching with a File Number. In fact, since 2016, the film code is the same as the file number on essentially every real property record.
For newer documents, searching with a file number or film code is completely interchangeable. In terms of search functionality, there is no benefit of searching for a film code versus a file number, no matter what year the record is from.
With a full file number or film code in-hand, upon searching, you’ll be brought to the exact document of interest. Simply enter the number into the search bar and you’ll be on your way.
Date of Document or Deed
Whether paired with other search filters or not, you can search for real property records by the date in which they were filed. To do so, you need to add a range.
You can search property documents filed any date going back to January 1, 1961, although PDF images of documents are only available dating back to March 23, 2000.
To search, you can either click the calendar selection box and choose specific “to“ and “from“ dates, or you can directly enter each date in a MM/DD/YYYY format.
When running a date-range search, your results will come in the form of a list. You’ll be able to see the File Number, File Date, Document Type, Names involved, Legal Description, Number of Pages, and the Film Code of each record listed.
From there, you can click the right-aligned Film Code (highlighted blue), where you’ll be taken to a PDF image of the actual document being represented.
There, you can find various information on property transactions and the parties involved. You may also find the address of new property owners, as well as their name or the name of their property owning-LLC.
Another way to search Harris County real property records is to search by the name of the grantor or grantee.
Perhaps you’re familiar with the name of a new property buyer or seller, and would like to find out more information about the property and its transactions. Maybe you’d like to see the recent sale value of the property, the other grantor/grantee involved, or the address of those involved.
To search by property records by name, simply enter the name of the grantor or grantee that you know, last name first, with no punctuation.
If you’re unsure of someone’s first name, you can search just for a last name of a grantor or grantee. You cannot, however, search for a first name alone.
Once again, upon searching, you’ll be given a list of the properties that match what you’ve entered, where you can again click the Film Code to dive into the documents themselves and find the information you need.
Block, Lot, and Section
You cannot search by address on the Harris County Clerk website, but you can search by Block and Lot numbers, as well as Section and Legal Description.
This is as close as you can get to a property search by geography on the Harris County site.
Perhaps you know where a property is, but are unfamiliar with some of its other details, like who the owner is, when it was most recently sold, if there’s a lien on the property, and so on.
Once again, to search for these pieces of information specifically, simply enter the number into the corresponding search bar.
You can pair these filters with a Legal Description, Date, or Grantor/Grantee name to make your search a little more granular.
If you don’t know the block and/or lot number on a given property, but know it’s address, you can visit the county’s appraisal district website, otherwise known as HCAD.
If you don’t know the block and lot numbers, but know the name of the owner, you can just search by Grantor/Grantee through the county clerk.
Searching by grantor, grantee. and block and lot numbers allows you to lookup properties, even if you’re unsure whether or not they’ve transacted in the recent past. They can be used for more general research on properties, owners, and geographic areas.
Alternatives to the Harris County Clerk
Whatever the case may be, when trying to search properties or find property information in Harris County, the county clerk’s website may not always be the best option available. Some of that can be found using HCAD.
In just about any situation, however, the Harris County property you need can be found using Reonomy OffMarket.
With Reonomy OffMarket, you can tap into all of the county’s commercial properties, and search them in a variety of different ways.
You can search commercial properties in Harris County by geography, asset type, building and lot characteristics, sales history, debt history, and ownership.
You can filter your search by the specific pieces of information you’re looking for, or search more broadly and analyze properties to find the information you’re looking for.
Perhaps you’re looking for a multifamily that has not been sold in a long period of time. Or perhaps you’re looking for a recently sold industrial building.
You can search by asset type, for Harris County properties that have not been sold in the last 5 years, 7 years, 10 years, or whatever you prefer.
Extra layers of filters can be added to each part of your search. Looking for multifamily properties? Add filters for number of units, building size, and so on.
Looking for recently sold properties? Add layers of search filters for most recent sale date and sale price.
Looking for industrial properties in Harris County? Search different types of industrial properties with granularity, including warehouses, storage, salvage yards, metal production, lumber yards, and much more.
Reonomy can also help in your efforts to put this information to action, by offering in-depth property ownership details and contact information.