Oy. A very simple question from a Herald reader gets a very, unnecessarily complex answer from Nena Groskind.

Question: I’m looking to buy a specific home and want to determine how big the current owner’s mortgage is. I want to figure out a realistic offer to make, given how much the seller will need to pay the mortgage off. What do you suggest? – C.P., Somerville

Nena’s answer: Start with a trip to the Registry of Deeds in the county the property is located in.

No!

Do it online. You’ll get the same results, in half the time.

You have to be computer literate, and you have to be a bit patient, but you can find out just about anything you need to know from the counties’ Registry websites.

Search by address or name. Hopefully, the owner’s name isn’t Brown or Johnson, or you’ll have a lot of work to do.

The data is only as good as its source. If the seller is famous, say, Tom Brady, he might have the property listed under someone else’s name, or in a trust. Also, the records often include mispellings – these showed up on the original records, so were just transferred, with errors intact.

Deeds, liens, and mortgage information is all available on the Registry sites.

Checking a seller’s mortgage balance – By Nena Groskind, The Boston Herald

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