What are New Mexico Property Records?
Property records in New Mexico refer to the official papers maintained by local government officials to identify a piece of real estate (land or building), its value, and all transactions that occurred on it. This includes when the property was sold, gifted to another party, used as collateral for a loan, transferred via a will, and all other instances where property ownership rights were signed over from one person to another. Because property records carry important details about the ownership, sale or transfer, and legal description of a property, the documents are useful in resolving issues that may arise from real estate, including boundary line disagreements and property tax payment issues.
In New Mexico, citizens record transactions on property with the county clerk's office in the locality where the real estate is situated. Each county clerk's office in New Mexico is responsible for preserving, updating, and providing property records for their respective municipalities. The clerk's offices record different legal documents based on the real estate transaction and property type. Examples include mortgages, deeds (or property ownership records), transcripts of judgments, plats, powers of attorney, easements, liens, and property survey records.
Altogether, New Mexico property records create a detailed paper trail that real estate buyers, land developers, investors, and other interested entities can follow to investigate the ownership/title and history of a parcel of land or other real property located in the state.
Are New Mexico Property Records Public?
Yes, New Mexico property records are open to the public under Section 14-8-9.1 of the state's legislature. According to N.M. Stat. § 14-8-9.1 (A), any document recorded in the county clerk's office is presumed to be a "public record," except otherwise provided by law. As property records created in New Mexico fit this description, members of the public have the statutory right to inspect or request copies of property records filed in any New Mexico county clerk's office.
Property records are available for public viewing through government agencies or third-party aggregate websites. Accessing property records through third-party sites is typically straightforward, and the records are not geographically limited. However, because the sites are not government-affiliated and run independently, the information contained in the records may vary. Searching parties should include the following information to obtain complete property records:
- The property’s exact location.
- The property owner’s details.
What Information is Included in New Mexico Property Records
New Mexico county officials record and maintain different property documents. Generally, the property records found in one government office differ from what is preserved by another. For instance, a county clerk's office is the go-to official source for all property documents filed in a county. Meanwhile, a county treasurer's office has tax-related property records. As such, the following is a broad list of information that may appear in a New Mexico property record:
- Property ownership records (or deeds)
- A property's address and serial number
- The legal description of a property (including square footage, number of bedrooms, property type, year built, etc.)
- Recorded liens and judgments
- The most recent property value assessment and assessment history
- Unpaid property taxes
- Plat maps (documents showing a property's size, boundaries, location, and everything attached to it)
- Real estate contracts
- Zoning information and violations
- An image of the property
Where to Search New Mexico Public Property Records
Per the New Mexico legislature, property records constitute public records that can be obtained from local authorities. Hence, any person (resident or not) can search for New Mexico public property records at the municipal office responsible for filing property records in county records in the state: the county clerk's offices, in most cases. Searches for public property records in New Mexico may also be performed through a county assessor's office.
How to Do a Property Records Search in New Mexico
Generally, there are two methods that an individual may utilize to search property records in New Mexico. The first requires the interested person to call or visit the office of a county clerk or local assessor during open hours. Records at these offices are available for public viewing, and staff can furnish requesters with copies of recorded documents (if needed). Individuals may also obtain guidelines on conducting a property records search in New Mexico or get a referral to a title company from these offices.
Alternatively, a person can check the official website of a county clerk or assessor's office for a property records search engine. This tool can be accessed with different search keywords, which can include:
- A real estate owner's name or business name
- A physical address
- Legal description
- Parcel ID number
- Tax Account ID
- Recording date
Unlike the first option, an individual does not need to be physically located in New Mexico to search property records or purchase copies from a county assessor or clerk's website. Some local offices that provide property records search engines in New Mexico include the Sante Fe County Assessor's Office, Colfax County Clerk's Office, Lincoln County Clerk's Office, and Scott County Property & Taxation Services.
Note that a clerk or assessor's office can only provide real estate documents for residential and non-residential properties based in their municipalities. A requester cannot find other U.S. land records or real property records.
How to Find the Owner of a New Mexico Property Using Public Records
Determining the true owner of a property is a step that every buyer or prospective real estate owner/investor should take into account before the sale or transfer of property. Uncovering this information helps guarantee the legitimacy of a property sale or transfer (among other benefits) and verify the overall status of a property. Also, it allows such persons to bypass conflicts that may emerge regarding the title of real property.
One way to find the rightful owner of a property using public records in New Mexico is to search property ownership records (or deeds) filed in a county clerk's office or other applicable local recorder's office. Ideally, this should be the office in the county where the property lies. Given that property records are part of the public domain in New Mexico, anyone can access these records to find out who owns - or owned - a land or building. Per the law, the county clerks allow free inspections of public property records at their offices or on their websites (if available) and only charge a small fee when someone requests a document's reproduction.
Another way to find the owner of a New Mexico property using public records is to search property records held by a county assessor's office. These public offices determine the taxable value of homes, businesses, and other properties and keep records on all taxable property within their jurisdictions. They also prepare a tax roll (an inventory of every taxable real and personal property) for the treasurer's office, among other responsibilities. Thus, a search through an assessor's office can reveal not only who owns a piece of property but also the last property evaluation and other assessment records. Fortunately, many county assessor's offices in New Mexico maintain online property records software that can be accessed with a property address, legal description, or Parcel ID to find property records.
A list of all county assessor's offices in New Mexico can be found on the Taxation & Revenue Department's County Officials page.
Besides personally researching public records for property ownership in New Mexico, an individual can also conduct a title search through a title company or third-party property lookup service. They may also talk to a real estate agent or attorney, as such professionals may already have the information or have access to databases/documents that provide real estate ownership data. These may be the preferred options for persons uncertain about where to begin their search, who are missing a few key pieces of information for an independent search (for example, the property's ID number), whose search spans several New Mexico counties, or who do not have the time. Note, however, that it may be costly.
What are New Mexico Property Records Used For?
New Mexico property records serve a variety of purposes to the persons who obtain them. More commonly, these persons are potential buyers, sellers, and investors of real estate who want to ascertain the value, encumbrances, or present ownership of a piece of property. However, individuals can also obtain property records in New Mexico to:
- Find out the tax, assessment, and ownership history of a property
- Review property survey records
- Resolve issues involving titles, easements, property taxes, inheritances, mortgages, and other property-related matters
How to Find New Mexico Property Tax Records
Interested persons can request New Mexico property tax records from county treasurer's offices - the government offices that collect property taxes in the state. Similar to the requests made to the county clerk or assessors' offices, an individual can contact a county treasurer's office or access their online property tax search tool to find tax records for property. A local treasurer's property tax search tool is typically accessible with a property owner's name, tax account number, parcel number, or situs address (the physical location of a property). For example, the tax account search tools maintained by the San Juan County Treasurer's Office, Torrance County Treasurer's Office, and Sandoval County Treasurer's Office.
What to Do When You Can't Find Property Records in New Mexico
The inability to find a property record in New Mexico usually either means that the document was never recorded with a local government body or does not exist. In such cases, the regional authorities that file property records for citizens in New Mexico cannot assist a person with the property records search or investigation.
Instead, there are some steps a person might take.
The first is to place a call to the tax assessor's office. The general rule of thumb is that so long as taxes are being paid on a piece of property, the assessor's office likely has information about the property. A second option is to talk to a real estate attorney who can help search other legal records (e.g., bankruptcy records) that may contain property data. The lawyer can also advise on legal actions that can be taken to resolve the matter. However, suppose the property record was not filed due to an oversight. In that case, the affected owner should record the document immediately (and correctly), as any further delay can cause one to lose their property, forfeit an investment/sale, or suffer other repercussions.
Note, however, that in some instances, being unable to find property records in New Mexico may be because a person is searching in the wrong county. When this happens, one may forgo searching through government sources and use third-party services. One advantage of third-party property lookup services is that they can find U.S. land records in several jurisdictions simultaneously.