Edit "On advice from our watchful readers, this post, nor anything on this website should be construed as legal advice. We are not lawyers, nor do we purport to be. While we hope this (and other) posts are informative and entertaining, you should always consult an attorney licensed to practice in the appropriate state before entering into any agreement to purchase real estate."
The first thing you will need is the address of the property. Let's say our property is located at 380 Sad City Lane. To do our research we will now need to take a field trip to City Hall. Boring you say? City Hall is one of the coolest buildings in Hartford. Take time to wander around and check out the great architecture both inside and outside the building. Once finished exploring go to the Tax Assessor's Office that is on your right when you walk into City Hall.
When you walk in you will see two computers. Sit right down at one. Another bonus; no need to deal with anyone and we've never seen a line at these computers. Type in the address and search for results. The results will give you the current owner, when they bought the property, what they paid for the property, and a reference number. Let's say the property was purchased by Hakaan Loob in 2005 for $300,000. Sure seems like a bad deal now that the property is abandoned. Write down the reference number and head for the room all the way at the end of the hall.
When you reach this room the first thing you will notice is what seems like an infinite number of binders on the shelves covering the entire room. In the middle shelves there are larger books sorted by year. Go grab the 2005 book and look up the 380 Sad City Lane property owned by Hakaan Loob. When you find it, you will get another reference number that will refer to one of the thousands of binders on the wall. Once you find your binder and your page, you will see the Warranty Deed that transferred the property to Hakaan.
Let's say 380 Sad City Lane was transferred to Hakaan for $300,000 with a mortgage lien from The South End Mortgage Co. right at the height housing bubble from who?
You can then trace the transfer to see how Jumper acquired it. Using the same process, find your next binder. You see that Jumper acquired it mortgage free from Hopper McKay, presumably a family member for $80,000 in 1989. Seems like that crafty Jumper knows something about timing the Hartford real estate market. The reason to trace title back is to see if any outstanding liens exist that were never addressed. Lawyers will generally go back
Next, in the same room, there is a shelf entitled tax liens. If a house is abandoned, there is a good chance the owner isn't paying property taxes on it. The liens are sorted alphabetical by owner by year. Start in 2005, the year poor Hakaan was fleeced by the insidious Jumper. If the name isn't there, no tax liability exists for that year. Carry on through the most recent year. You discover Hakaan owes a total of $6,000 taxes to the City on the property. It turns out Hakaan, so distraught over the fleecing by Jumper and the outrageously high property taxes in Hartford, lost his mind and now spends his time roaming the streets looking at pay phones.
If you decide to acquire the property, the city is going to get paid first. The City becomes the priority lien holder. (Sometimes mortgage companies will even pay the taxes to prevent this.) Next will come the mortgage company, then Hakaan will get the left over funds, if any. Let's say 380 Sad City Lane is worth $150,000 today and you would like to purchase it. The South End Mortgage Co. still has a mortgage for $130,000 on the property. So when you buy for $150,000, the City of Hartford will get their $6,000, the mortgage company their $130,000, leaving $14,000 for poor Hakaan.
And you will be the proud owner of a Hartford abandoned.