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I noticed that after I bought a house, I started getting junk mail with my specific mortgage amount on it pretty quickly, presumably sourced from public information. Will it also be public information if I either

  1. Refinance. Will current principal be able to be determined?
  2. Pay off mortgage completely. Will anyone but the lending bank know this?
3
  • The initial principle of the refinance should be, assuming your refinance is just a new loan taken out to repay the old one. As far as #2, I doubt the literal fact that you have paid off the principal is public information, but a change to your title resulting from the discharge of the mortgage may be.
    – chepner
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 14:31
  • 1
    Which State are you in? In some states, all this info is public information. Have fun looking up your neighbor’s (or your boss’) home price and mortgage.
    – Aganju
    Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 20:57
  • Added Ohio state tag Commented Nov 18, 2020 at 21:06

3 Answers 3

16

Different counties could vary on what they report, but in my county there is a searchable public record when you file a mortgage on a property (including the mortgage amount) and when the mortgage is released. There is no public information on how the mortgage was released (or the payoff amount), so if the refinance is with the same institution, then there may not be any record of a mortgage release (since the mortgage was not actually released, just the loan refinanced).

A refinance with another institution could be inferred by the release of the mortgage on one date and a new mortgage filed on a nearby date. A complete payoff would simply be filed as a release of mortgage. There's no way that I can see to know if the mortgage was simply paid off or paid off part of a sale (although I suppose one could cross-reference the mortgage records with property sale records).

8

D Stanley's answer is excellent and just to provide information on different jurisdictions, I will explain how mine works:

Any time a lien is filed in my county, that is public record. So if you initiate any kind of mortgage, that information is available publicly and often generates a number of solicitations. Some companies are savvy enough to look back when your lien was filed, estimate your current pay off amount, and provide you with either a cash out refi option or a reduction in payments.

When a lien is released, it is not typically publicly available and does not generate solicitations.

2
  • For my last refinance, I got a message from the old bank explicitly stating that some of the information would be public in state and county records. Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 14:20
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    I do believe the release of the lien or mortgage deed is public record. I have received congratulatory letters when paying off a mortgage, couched in offers to get another mortgage. It could be from credit report, or could be from county recorders office, but somehow, they knew.
    – Mark Harr
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 15:21
0

Yes.

Mortgages create liens on homes. All liens¹ are public information everywhere in the US. If you payoff your loan, you remove the lien and that gets recorded.

How companies get the information very much depends on the business. There are people who go read all the records² and add the information to their database. Then they charge other businesses to access the database, which is then used to do marketing or research.

Some of the data may be protected and not shareable in that manner depending on local laws. In that case, you'd have to go to the registry yourself to get the information. The information is still public.


¹ Other types of liens include:

  • Judgement Lien: the owner owes money to someone,
  • Tax Lien: when you missed too many property tax payments (which is why mortgagors pay that for you and you get an escrow account),
  • Mechanic Lien: when you owe money to a contractor that did work on your house.

² Many of those public records do not automatically make it online. At least not by the county, city, court, etc. An example of such a company is the MLS.

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    In the UK, many people repay the mortgage and never bother removing the lien until the house is sold. The advantage is that it is cheaper and easier to get some new loan (from the same lender) because the lien is already in place. Of course in the public record there is just the fact that you have a lien on your home. In case you can’t pay your zero pound mortgage:-)
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 6, 2023 at 10:59

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