Recently by Bill Rounds: Block Caller ID, Prevent Reverse Phone Lookup, and Keep Your Phone Number Private
In one corner we have the vast address lookup databases, pulling in personal information from public records and the entire internet. In the other corner is you, trying to keep your private address from becoming public knowledge. If you are a star on a Hollywood star map, or just an average Joe who wants to separate his private and public life, public records of real estate ownership can make it difficult to protect your private address. The address lookup sites are usually the heavy favorite, but here are a few tips for the underdog to protect privacy and maintain a private address.
Renting A Private Address
Rent. Renting a house, condo or apartment instead of buying is one of the easiest ways to keep your private information out of public records and out of address lookup sites. Property ownership records are public record, but rental records are not.
Try to rent directly from the owner of the property, rather than a property management company. Property management companies keep records of their units and many of them sell their data, including data of their renters. If you must involve a property management company, smaller ones are less likely to share data.
If you never give out your rental address, use ghost addresses, order utilities and services in another name, among other things, you will remain very private.
LLCs and Corporations To Hold Real Estate
If you own property in the name of an LLC or corporation, the business entity will be listed in the public real estate ownership records. Your name will not appear immediately in those public records. Someone would have to make a separate request to the secretary of state to find out who owns that LLC or corporation. It is not the most solid privacy protection of your private address, but it adds an extra layer of protection.
In many property ownership databases, it is possible to search for ownership records by owner’s name. If you own multiple properties in your own name it will be easy to create an asset profile of you. If you own multiple properties with multiple business entities it will be much harder to create such a profile, especially if each of your business entities exist for the sole purpose of managing one property.
New Mexico is the only state where LLCs are totally anonymous. That means that if you own property with a New Mexico LLC your name can’t be connected with the property in the public ownership records or the business ownership records. Plus, you can own real estate with a New Mexico LLC in just about every state in the US without any special filing or permission.
If you want to be very advanced, your New Mexico LLC can be the only owner of your LLC or corporation formed in another state. That way, when someone queries the ownership of an LLC, all they will get is your New Mexico LLC. It will be a dead end.
Trusts To Hold Real Estate
Another very private way to own property is through a trust. Trusts are commonly used by large developers to stealthily buy up several adjacent parcels of land which they will later develop as one, without tipping off the sellers. They buy each individual parcel with a different trust, established only for the purpose of owning the property and named in a way that doesn’t identify the real buyer. Disney used this strategy to purchase the land for Disney World. Imagine the price the last seller on the block could get if they knew who had been buying all of the other houses in the neighborhood.
The most private way to buy real estate using a trust is to transfer the property directly into the trust. This is usually only possible if you pay full value for the property and do not mortgage it. Almost every mortgage company will require you to transfer real estate to your own name first before you transfer it to a trust. This will leave your name in the chain of title forever, so it is not preferable but it may be the best you can do and it is better than nothing.
If You Already Own Real Estate In Your Name
If you like where you currently live and you don’t want to move but your real estate is already in your own name, you can still transfer it to a trust, LLC, corporation, or New Mexico LLC at any time. This will leave your name in the chain of title, which is searchable, but at least you won’t be the current record owner.
Other Tactics To Prevent Address Lookup
Private ownership and occupancy of real estate is only one part of you game plan to keep your name out of the address lookup databases. You need to round out your skills by mastering other important techniques that you can find in How To Vanish. Never give out your home address, use ghost addresses, order utilities and services in another name, be careful when you order pizza. The address lookup databases have the advantage of being everywhere, but now you have the advantage of knowing how to beat them.
Reprinted with permission from How to Vanish.
Bill Rounds, J.D. is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties.