Finding out who owns a property in New York City can be challenging. While it might be as straightforward as contacting your county tax official in other areas of the country, New York City residential real estate has cooperatives and other unique property types that make things a little more complicated.
It’s easier to find out who owns a co-op than most other types of NYC real estate since they are typically only allowed to be purchased by individuals. Condos, new developments, etc. are more likely to be owned by LLCs or larger institutions, so identifying the individuals responsible for a certain apartment is a bit harder.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how New York City property ownership has changed over time to include more LLCs, how new developments are unique, and the best ways to try to find out who owns a property in New York City. Let’s take a deeper look:
How NYC Property Ownership Has Changed Over Time
Why Do People Want To Know Who Owns A Property In New York City?
Why is this even a concern? Does it really matter who owns a New York City property once owners change hands? It depends on the person, but most buyers just want to be informed.
When you’re talking about likely some of the biggest financial transactions of New Yorker’s lives, people want to know who they are purchasing from – is it a fellow NYC resident that is just moving to another place in the city? Or is it an international corporation that bought the property as an investment?
LLCs Role in NYC Residential Real Estate
Over the past few decades, it has become increasingly hard to find out who owns a property in New York City due to shifts in how people take ownership of properties.
Eric French wrote an article diving deep into housing ownership change from 2002-2014. While he only looked at the East Village, he highlighted an interesting trend – more and more properties are being purchased by LLCs than ever before.
Anecdotally, this makes sense. While co-ops still make up the majority of NYC’s inventory, condos are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons – one of which being the privacy that purchasing through an LLC allows.
People also purchase properties through LLCs if they have significant assets outside that holding, so if something goes wrong, the LLC would be held financially liable rather than the individual.
LLCs Don’t Mean Total Privacy
The lack of transparency about who makes up LLCs, and therefore anyone who owns a property in New York City, was addressed by the NY government in September 2019 with two new laws: New York State Tax Law §1409 and New York Administrative Code §11-2105.
In short, these two laws work together to require the full name and address of every member of an LLC that acquires or sells residential real estate in NY.
But even with the new law in place, some requests for information filed by reporters have been denied. Syracuse.com was denied access to LLC records, which is just one example of how there is still quite a bit of mystery around members of LLCs.
Long story short, if you’re thinking about purchasing a property from an LLC, know that you may only be able to find information about the LLC itself, not the individual(s) who are a part of it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but is something to note.
If you’re purchasing a new development condo and it’s the first offering of the unit (also called a sponsor unit), you’re most likely purchasing the property from the developer or their financial institution.
Typically, new developments are financed by a developer through a construction loan from a bank, and it will be relatively easy to find who financed the construction.
For example, Central Park Tower was developed by Extell Development Company and financed by Shanghai Municipal Investment (SMI) – both facts easily found right on Central Park Tower’s official website.
Once the unit is no longer a first offering (or sponsor unit), it’s exactly like any other resale condo transaction – both the buyers and sellers are individuals, not banks or developers.
However, there is one loophole, even for condos. It is entirely possible for an LLC or other entity to purchase a sponsor unit in a condominium building from a developer. That means that even if it’s a resale property, it might be more difficult to determine the individual that owns the unit.
Methods To Find Out Who Owns A Property in New York City
Work With A Great Real Estate Agent or Broker
By far the easiest and most reliable way to find the most accurate information about who owns a property in New York City is to contact a great real estate agent or broker.
We have tools that aren’t publicly available to help you learn all you need to know before purchasing a property – not to mention the personal connections we’ve made throughout our career.
If you have a property in mind and need help to find out more, reach out! Our team is known for their superior market knowledge and unparalleled customer service. We will do our very best to find any and all of the information you’re looking for and guide you through the often confusing process of buying or selling property in New York City.
Don’t worry – if your heart is set on finding out who owns a property in New York City by yourself, below are some tools you can use:
The Automated City Register Information System, or ACRIS, gives you access to property records for Manhattan, Queens, Bronx, and Brooklyn from 1966 to the present. If you are searching for a property on Staten Island, you’ll have to visit the Richmond County Clerk’s Office website instead.
To use the tool, you’ll need to know either the property’s address, the owner’s name, or the property’s tax designation. It also is helpful to know the type of property (i.e., multi-family dwelling, commercial, vacant, etc.)
There is no cost to use the online ACRIS search tool. If you need a physical copy of a property record, you can print the record for free from a personal printer, or you can request copies from the City Register Office. An uncertified copy costs $1/page, and a certified copy costs $4/page at the time of writing.
Beyond searching for property records and information, the ACRIS system can also help you compute property transfer taxes, and create helpful documents, like cover pages and tax forms.
Property Shark is a popular tool used to find out information on buildings in New York City. It is a search tool that you can use to find out all kinds of information, including:
- Property characteristics
- Property value
- Sales history
- Owner’s name and contact information
- History of foreclosure
- Zoning information
- Title documents
Certain information is available at no cost on Property Shark, but other information is locked unless you sign up for an account. There are several tiers of subscriptions available on the website, ranging in both additional features available and price, but you can expect to pay between $60 and $160.
(If you’re considering paying for a tool, just reach out…we CAN help and will likely be able to find more reliable information about who owns a property in New York City)
Property Shark is a great tool for investors and real estate brokers and agents. It provides the user with detailed and interactive maps of the area around a property, and also has several useful features for putting together targeted mailing lists for specific properties and areas.
NYCityMap is another great tool for searching for who owns a property in New York City. By searching for a specific address, you can find information about the building, including:
- The owner
- When it was built
- Zoning information
- How many units it has (residential/commercial)
- Total square footage
The information on the site should be taken with a grain of salt, though, as the databases aren’t always updated quickly when the information changes, and the search engine itself can prove to be a bit tricky.
When you’re searching for a specific property, search only for the name and number of the property, as in “20 W 34 st”, and avoid searches like “20 west thirty-fourth street”.
If you can’t find the address this way, you can try searching for the 10-digital BBL (Borough, Block, Lot). You may be asked to confirm a few details about the property (i.e., neighborhood, county, etc.), and then the program should display the building’s information.
RealtyHop is a search platform that organizes New York City property records from multiple sources into one place. All you need to search for information on a property is the address, or the organization/owner’s name.
This particular search platform provides the following information about properties in New York City:
- Ownership information
- Tax information
- Transaction history
- Detailed photos and descriptions
- Other building or individual unit statistics
This service is free to use, but to access all its features, you will need to create an account and log in to the website. RealtyHop can be very helpful if you’re looking to find out the investment potential of a property, or the price at which similar properties were listed for sale recently.
New York State Division of Corporations, State Records, and UCC
Sometimes, when you’re using free-versions of search engines like PropertyShark, NYCityMap, or RealtyHop to try to find out who owns a property in New York City, you can only find the name of the corporation that owns the building.
By searching the corporation’s name on the New York State Division of Corporations, State Records, and UCC website, you can (sometimes) find the name of the person or people that owns the corporation.
As with any free search tool, it’s best to double check any information you find with other sources. The delay in updating databases can sometimes provide you with information that is no longer accurate.
Skip the Hassle – Find A Great Real Estate Agent or Broker
Like we said above, the easiest and most reliable way to find the most accurate information about who owns a property in New York City is to contact a great real estate agent or broker.
Why waste time searching by yourself to still have questions about the accuracy of the data at the end?
Our superior market knowledge and informative white-glove approach ensures that our clients experience nothing but the best – and we’d be happy to help you find any information you’re looking for about a NYC real estate property.
Ready to get started? Send us a message or give us a call. We can’t wait to hear from you!