The Value of Land Records and Recording
February 04, 2021 by
Community members interact with local government in many ways, some obvious and routine, some procedural and quickly forgotten. While all departments and offices are woven together to support functional, thriving communities, it’s hard to appreciate the ones we only interact with a handful of times, if at all.
Have you ever bought a house? It’s a momentous occasion that, whether you realize it or not, depends on departments we don’t often think of, including the local recording office. The recording process makes deeds and other real estate documents part of the public record. New homeowners pay recording fees as part of their closing. It sounds simple, but without these records that verify ownership, “it can make it impossible for you to obtain title insurance or borrow money from a lender,” notes this article from The Mortgage Reports. Even worse, absence of records can lead to disputes and challenges around property ownership.
Why Land Records Matter
Maintaining these records is the job of the county recorder or clerk. “Without the work of the county recorder in recording, safekeeping, and organizing all documents in a competent and logical manner,” notes the Ottowa County, Ohio website, “it would be nearly impossible to purchase land and be assured of a clear title or to lend money with land as security.”
Just as important as maintaining current and accurate land records is ensuring their accessibility for public research. Recording offices index records in a way that creates a complete title chain and includes any debts or encumbrances against a property. This matters to real estate agents, title agencies, would-be homebuyers, attorneys, and others.
Accurate land records inform fair and equitable taxation, and they establish a clear chain of ownership to settle legal disputes or prevent fraud. For entrepreneurs, deeds provide necessary documentation for business loans. History buffs and genealogists, too, value access to records that can reveal family histories and often date back to the American Revolution.
How Tech Helps
Given the importance of land records, unique opportunity exists for modern technology to improve processes and enhance access in four key ways:
1. Enhanced Efficiency
Managing records into perpetuity requires technology that makes it easy to index, record, and surface documents. Optical character recognition (OCR) tools help automate the indexing and redaction process. Integrations create efficiencies through digital workflows and connected financial and cashiering functions. For example, software can support document searches and automatically calculate search and copy fees as well as facilitate online payment.
2. Public Self-Service
Self-service options allow constituents to research, review, download, and purchase copies of records online, without having to visit the recorder’s office in person and wait for staff to conduct a manual search. Secure public access increases the office’s transparency, enhances constituent service, and saves valuable staff time. Peoria, Illinois, and Lyon County, Nevada, experienced significant wins through self-service options.
3. Fair Taxation
Fair and equitable taxation as well as secure revenue collections fuel operating budgets that provide necessary community services. Software that connects records with the appraisal and tax office keeps tax roll information accurate and up to date.
Evolving cyberthreats and recurring natural disasters threaten record integrity and security. Moving to the cloud mitigates the risks of on-premises data storage and provides built-in disaster recovery while minimizing IT maintenance costs and physical footprint.
From buying a house to researching a property’s full history, recording offices provide valuable services to individuals and communities. Streamlined records management that enhances transparency and automates workflows creates smarter, more connected departments that better serve the public.
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