The existence of the public land records serves not only as a checking system but also to provide notice to all prospective purchasers. Failure to take this notice can cause all sorts of problems.

Tax liens, whereby taxes are past due on the property, remain on the property whether the purchaser had actual knowledge of their existence or not. You, as a buyer, are charged with constructive notice of what is on the county land records. They are public and on display for you to see. If you ignore the chance to do so it’s not the county’s fault. If you go ahead and buy the tax liened property you now owe the previous taxes assessed against the property. The same holds true for judgment liens, statutory liens and other encumbrances. The time to deal with these issues is before you buy the property, not after. Use your leverage as a buyer to have the liens paid off by the seller through escrow, or, if the seller won’t budge on it, to walk away from the deal.

Beware of any seller or advisor who discourages you from reviewing the public land records or from buying title insurance. The real estate broker who counsels that title insurance is a waste of money is the broker who is sure to be sued for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. Engage in your own due diligence review–check the title report for what, if any, encumbrances exist against the property. For more information on this, please read my book, Loopholes of Real Estate.