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Buyer beware

A Superior real estate agent is warning new homeowners to beware buyers. RE/MAX1 Agent Tom Acton said new homeowners are being targeted by a company - with a name that sounds like a government agency - promising a copy of homeowners' deeds and pr...

Buyer beware
New homeowners in the area are receiving letters from a company promising a copy of their deed and property profile for $87. The deed is available at the Register of Deeds Office in the courthouse for $2, and information included in the property profile is freely available on two Douglas County web sites. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

A Superior real estate agent is warning new homeowners to beware buyers.

RE/MAX1 Agent Tom Acton said new homeowners are being targeted by a company - with a name that sounds like a government agency - promising a copy of homeowners' deeds and property profile in exchange for a fee.

While State Record Retrieval Board, with an address in Milwaukee, immediately states the company isn't a government agency when called and includes a disclaimer that states its service has not been endorsed by any government agency, Acton said the letter still gives the impression it's a government agency. He said the company is charging outrageous fees for a document the homeowner has already paid fees to file with their local Register of Deeds or Recorder's offices.

State Record Retrieval Board charges homeowners $87 for a copy of their deed and a property profile.

"We're a company that provides a service," said Neil Stockton, a manager with State Record Retrieval Board. He said having a deed - proof of ownership - can also come in handy in an emergency and can help homeowners uncover errors in recording the document, such as the omission of parties with an interest in the property.

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"They really don't need it," Acton said. "They've already spent the money to file the deed."

Douglas County Register of Deeds Gayle Wahner agreed, calling the service a "scam."

While some homeowners want a copy of their deed, Wahner said they can get a copy in her office for $2. But she agreed most homeowners don't need a copy of their deed as proof of ownership of the property unless there is a change in the property. And some matters can be taken care of simply by looking up the deed rather than obtaining a copy, she said. Those records are readily available in her office in the Douglas County Courthouse.

According to the company's letter, a property profile includes the property address, the owners' names, comparable values and the legal description or parcel identification number.

It's information that is public record, readily available online at two Douglas County web sites: http://douglascowi.wgxtreme.com or www.gcssoftware.com/douglas/search.aspx . Just enter the address or owner's name in the search fields. The available tax record includes all that information and more. At http://douglascowi.wgxtreme.com , homeowners can access a detailed assessment profile of their home.

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