If you’re looking to invest in Illinois real estate, chances are you’ll find yourself having to conduct a Cook County real estate investing records search. It can be overwhelming. This huge, sprawling county has an equally huge and sprawling network of databases. 

There are a lot of people who think that they need to rely on the network to find information on a foreclosed or abandoned house. It’s widely considered part of finding cheap leads in Chicago and Cook County. And while it is useful, there are a lot of problems with it—namely, that it is time-consuming and not completely reliable. 

But if you have to use it, here are a few tips that can help make your search for Cook County real estate investing records that much easier. 

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Why People Search the Cook County Real Estate Investing Records

If you’re new to this field, you might not know the utility of a search. It’s pretty simple: if you come across a house that is foreclosed or abandoned, or even just derelict, you might consider buying it. The only problem is that you don’t know a thing about it. That makes it hard to buy. So you conduct a records search. 

What you can find in your searches (because there are multiple ones you can/have to do) can help you determine if this is a worthwhile buy. Some of the factors you can search include:

  • The last taxpayer of record and their mailing address 
  • Estimated value
  • Current tax condition
  • Legal actions and liens
  • Property tax records
  • Foreclosure records
  • Lis pendens 

All of this information is valuable if you’re looking to purchase a property. You should always make sure you have an understanding of all the money a house owes (the liens and back taxes) before making a purchase. In most places, including Cook County, you become responsible for any liens or back taxes owed on a property when you become the owner. 

Not having the necessary information can hurt your bottom line. Without a property’s records, you’re buying blindly—similarly to buying a property at the Cook County Scavenger Sale. Here’s how to avoid that. 

How To Navigate the Cook County Real Estate Investing Records Search

When you are preparing to sort through ownership records in Chicago or in broader Cook County, keep in mind that it’s not a simple process. Before you conduct a search, you must first obtain a property’s PIN. Then, you’ll need to decide which database will provide the information for which you’re looking.  

Obtaining a Property’s PIN

Every property in the county has its own unique PIN number. The PIN isn’t printed on the door so you’ll have to do some digging to find it. 

The easiest way to do this is through the Assessor’s office. You can search for a PIN using the address but the site features a disclaimer: 

“Matches are not guaranteed, and there may be some addresses that are not available. In most cases, the Assessor’s office provides a photograph of the property, which can help verify the match of the address to the PIN.”

Choosing the Best Site to Search

There are a lot of sites where you can search for real estate investing records in Cook County. Some of these, and the reasons to use them, include:

  • The Cook County Tax Portal: Often the best place to get info on taxes, but keep in mind the “last taxpayer” on the property might not be the owner
  • Cook County Assessor: It usually has reliable information on the size of homes and the number of bedrooms, or unit count for differently-zoned property
  • City of Chicago Zoning Website: This is important if you want to rent your property, and also good to do neighborhood research. 
  • Cook County Recorder of Deeds: You can find court filings, foreclosures, deeds, judicial sales, and liens. This is probably the most useful and comprehensive site. 

I love being able to figure out the story of the house by collecting all this information. It’s like playing detective. If the information is available (and accurate), I’m able to feel better about making an investment. But, if the information is unavailable (or inaccurate), you could end up investing in a money pit. 

To be sure you’re making the smartest investment decision for your business, it’s best to have additional tools and resources to vet any records from a Cook County real estate search.   

A Better Way To Evaluate Properties in Cook County 

When I first started my real estate investing business, all I knew was the Cook County records database. I’d scour various portals for hours trying to get information about a house, only to find out that it wasn’t worth my time in the first place. And, the times that I’d thought I found a worthwhile investment, I ended up spending more than I’d anticipated. All of that changed when I became an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchise. 

By joining a network of experienced real estate investors, I was given the resources and mentorship I needed to set myself up for success. As a part of the HomeVestors® team, I gained access to proprietary property analysis and valuation tools like ValueChek®. This real estate investing app estimates expenses based on local labor and material costs and calculates potential returns to help determine the purchase price. I use it in addition to any information I find conducting a Cook County real estate investing records search. Because of the resources and tools provided by HomeVestors®, I’m able to feel confident about my real estate investment decisions.    

If you’re looking for a better way to obtain Cook County real estate investing records, request information about becoming a franchisee today



Each franchise office is independently owned and operated.


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