How to Use ACRIS to Grow Your Real Estate Business

Discover ACRIS, a resource for NYC real estate records. Learn its uses and how it can help enhance your real estate business by diversifying and growing.

If you're in the real estate industry, you may have heard colleagues mention a handy, free tool called ACRIS. Whether you're a broker, agent, investor, property manager, or even a lawyer, ACRIS can help advance your business or investment goals. In this article, we'll take a closer look at what ACRIS is, show you how to navigate the system, and teach you how to use it for optimal success.

How to Use ACRIS

ACRIS is a New York City property record database that many in the real estate industry utilize to grow, support, or supplement their businesses or investments.

  • Property records include deeds and deed transfers, mortgages, liens, etc. These records are public, and anyone can access them.
  • Records can be looked up by party name, parcel ID or BBL, address, or document type.
  • Real estate professionals can use ACRIS to find the value of a target property, and comps, and to identify new potential business prospects.

What is ACRIS?

ACRIS is a New York City government database that tracks all property record information, which includes but is not limited to deeds, mortgages, permits.

The New York City Department of Finance created a system you can find on their site called ACRIS, or the Automated City Register Information System.

The initial intent was to provide information to property owners of any deeds, mortgages or other related documents that have been recorded against a single property.

Nowadays, more than property owners use ACRIS.

They are accessible to the general public online through the Automated City Register Information System, also known as ACRIS.

The ACRIS database allows you to search for property records by name, address or through a property’s borough, block, and lot identifier.

ACRIS contains property records from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

The ACRIS system is managed by the New York City Department of Finance, Office of the City Register.

Any recorded documents can be found on ACRIS. This means that the site will contain documents that have been recorded by the county clerk and are now available as public records.

More specifically, the ACRIS website allows you to:

  1. Find a Property Borough, Block and Lot (BBL) or Address
  2. Create Cover Pages and Tax Forms to Record Documents
  3. Compute Property Transfer Taxes

ACRIS Can Help Your Business

Professionals in the real estate business, brokers, investors, lenders, and other service providers who know how and where to access property sales records on ACRIS have the advantage of staying ahead of the competition.

As such, ACRIS helps professional and commercial real estate individuals make sound real estate decisions.

Property records are public

If you are trying to look up property transactions in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx on ACRIS, you should know first and foremost that the database starts from 1966 and covers the present.

We should say again that property records in these boroughs are a matter of public record and can be accessed by anyone or the general public using the ACRIS database online.

You can search property records on any property located in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn.

Staten Island records can't be accessed through ACRIS

Staten Island is not on ACRIS, so properties located on Staten Island must be obtained through the office of the Richmond County Clerk.

In fact, before ACRIS was available, if a broker, resident, investor or anyone interested in looking up the details of a commercial or private property in New York and its boroughs, you would have to set a whole day aside to stand online for a very long time at the County Clerk’s office to find the information you need.

Is ACRIS the easiest way to look up a property?

Yes! ACRIS is very easy to use.

You don’t need to have advanced computer skills. You don’t need to register to use the online tool.

And the best part is that using the portal is completely free. Everything online is straightforward and easy to navigate.

For example, if a broker is looking up addresses on ACRIS for comps, the information about your home purchase and the terms and conditions of your mortgage loan is recorded among the land records in the area where the property is located.

Does making property records public compromise privacy?

Since property sales and records in New York are a matter of public record, this means that anyone can look up property records, including buyers, sellers, attorneys, brokers, investors or anyone else who just wants to find out information about a piece of property.

Documents found on a property include deeds, mortgages, and satisfactions of mortgages, Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) financing statements, and Notices of Federal Tax Liens (FTL).

Have you ever wondered if your friend or business colleague who knows just your name or address has looked up your property on ACRIS?

If someone does and finds that there’s a lien on your property, this can be embarrassing.

But for brokers, this is important information as it helps you purchase an apartment knowing first its status.

Snoops probably have searched for you since ACRIS is so user-friendly.

These nosy people would not say this is an invasion of privacy, but those who have purchased a property and do not wish others to see how much they paid for their home would.

After all, it’s like a co-op board interview where you have to divulge sensitive matters like how much you make in a year.

But with ACRIS, everyone who gives a hoot about you owning property is available to everyone.

Having a peek at information regarding a property like one’s deed and mortgage is a very useful tool.

In the past, documents and info on real estate property could have previously only been accessed by visiting the County Clerk's office.

Making public records more public doesn't seem that bad.

In fact, closing prices, a building’s sale history, and forums have made the real estate industry more transparent and, in a way, has eliminated the need for brokers to find you an apartment.

But that’s another story.

How To Search for a Property on ACRIS

Using the New York City Department of Finance site, you can find on this page a blue button on the right that says Begin Using ACRIS.

This will take you to the ACRIS page where you can start your search.

There are a number of different ways to search for records using ACRIS. We’ll go through each below.

Search by Party Name

The first is the easiest. It’s Search Results by Party Name.

You just need the name of the person or persons attached to a real estate transaction. If the owner is not an individual but a business, then use the business name.

If you get back too many results or names, chances are you are not using an individual’s entire proper name. Hence, you should know the full first and last name.

Search by Parcel Identifier

You can also search by parcel information.

The parcel information is the Borough, Block and Lot of your property, also known as BBL.

The BBL is used to identify each unit of real estate. If you don’t know it, click on “Address and Parcel Lookup.” You’ll find the info there.

Search by Document Type

If you’re looking for a specific document, search under “Document Type.” Here you will find some options.

For the best way to locate condo sales, select “Deeds and Other Conveyances” with the document class and “deed” as the document type.

Then choose a date range and borough to start searching. You can find the link under “Document Type” using the drop-down menu.

For the best way to look up co-op sales, choose “Other Documents” as the document class and “Both RPTT and RETT” as the document type.

Here once again you can find the link under “Document Type” using the drop-down menu.

Also under “Other Documents,” you can find zoning lot descriptions, landmark designations and a whole lot more.

If you found in your search the document you want, click on DET.

DET stands for “details” and here you can get a capsule summary of the document.

This is the place where you can find out how to read it, as DET is the document layout that is easiest to read.

Meanwhile. “IMG” will provide you an image of the document and even allow you to print a copy for yourself.

What’s Not on ACRIS

Unrecorded documents can’t be found on ACRIS.

So, for example, if you purchased a condo or a co-op recently and you want to get a copy of your deed or title, it’s not on ACRIS because the title company has not yet recorded it.

It just may be too soon.

But check back on ACRIS regularly so you’re assured that the deed has actually been recorded.

And if you’re a seller who has recently paid off a mortgage, you can frequently check ACRIS to ensure that the Satisfaction of Mortgage was recorded.

Additionally, NYC Department of Finance now requires that recorded documents need to be submitted electronically.

All you have to do is be registered to use ACRIS and complete an agreement and eRecording Application.

Searching ACRIS, as we’ve said, requires no registration. It’s just for owners uploading their real estate documentations.

This means you can request electronic certified copies of property documents that have been recorded on ACRIS.

But before you request electronic certified copies, just make sure that the recipient of your documents is willing to receive them in an electronic format

How ACRIS Can Help Real Estate Professionals

Real estate professionals use ACRIS in many ways because it helps them conduct business.

It can give them access to most of the records filed against New York City properties.

It can even give them the ability to search for land records against co-ops, which can be helpful in confirming early if there are any outstanding liens against a unit.

They can also use ACRIS to determine a property’s tax block and lot (as described here), find property deeds, mortgages and UCC financing statements, and identify easements or restrictions on the use of a property.

And in searching for recent deed transfers within an entire tax block, ACRIS is a great way to learn about sales of similar apartments in a neighborhood.

Here we’ll talk in-depth about some of the information found on ACRIS that brokers need to build their business or stay current in the real estate world.

Examining the Record

A real estate professional will use ACRIS to find out the current deed holder, the deed holder’s mailing address, the price history and sales of an apartment condo or co-op, square footage and, above all, the property ID and the type of deed that the owner holds.

NYC Property Sales Records

When searching ACRIS by “Document Type,” a real estate broker can choose from a variety of options related to property deeds.

If you’ve used filters on ACRIS, there will be options to search further to see more details on the deed.

The detailed information will include the parties involved, parcels, sale price, and much more.

Deriving Insights from Property Sales Records

There are a number of different insights that you can gain from reviewing the sales history of real estate properties.

The sales history will allow you to get more detailed information on a property, its owner, and the surrounding market.

For example, to estimate the current value of a commercial property, finding out the most recent sale price of the property allows you to compare it to other properties of similar characteristics that have been sold recently.

For brokers, this is the information they need.

By looking at what similar properties in the same market have sold for allows a broker to determine whether a property has appreciated or depreciated over time.

Moreover, just by looking at the sales records of properties gives investors and brokers the insight in which to predict whether a property is likely to be offered for sale.

For example, even if the owners of a property are currently not selling, and their property is currently off-market and for a very long time, a broker can engage with the owners to see if they are actually willing to sell now.

You never know, and in this way, a broker can find a new client to engage business with, something the broker may have not been able to do in the past without the right records.

And for real estate professionals looking to do business with new property owners, they will most definitely be interested in reviewing sales records in order to find recently sold properties.

Identifying an owner or owners or individuals that recently purchased real estate can be a great source of leads for other business services, such as a mortgage refinancer or lender or investor.

Identifying Red Flags

Finding out previous sales transactions for a commercial property allows the real estate business to spot any abnormalities, like if the sales price of the property fails to line up with its market value or if the property has been sold several times in a short time span.

Of course, a broker, for example, will then be able to inquire why the property is always on the market.

By identifying red flags, there may be something inherently wrong with the property and the broker is able to weed out such questionable business ventures before investing his or her time with it.

Real Estate Comps Help Professionals Immensely

What are real estate comps?

Comps, or “Comparables” is a real estate appraisal term that refers to properties that have similar characteristics, and therefore similar value to that of another property.

Comps are used by a wide range of commercial real estate professionals, but will typically be put to use for one or two forms of research:

  1. To assess the value of a target property.
  2. To find more property-related business opportunities similar to the one that’s already been uncovered.

Real estate comps can either be put together with thorough analysis or by ACRIS.

Here are the details:

A broker looking to sell property in New York City will look at prior property sales records to generate accurate real estate comps.

Sales comps can help a real estate broker evaluate much more than a single property.

They can provide invaluable insights into entire markets, property owners, asset types, and other commercial real estate trends.

In this way, brokers, investors, lenders, and other service providers who know how and where to access property sales records have the advantage of staying ahead of the competition.

The idea of real estate comps is that, in order to understand the current environment and market value of a commercial property, brokers et al should look at the historical and recent value of characteristics of other, very similar properties.

There’s a great deal of insights that can be derived from analyzing properties very alike to one in which you’re looking to learn more about.

Comps ensure you’re making sound professional commercial real estate decisions.

Comps also help investors assess the potential ROI of a property versus its peers, while sales comps help identify recent sales of properties very similar to that of your subject property.

Comps help you thoroughly analyze a property and its relative market with the help of real, relevant data from what’s found on ACRIS.

Determining Commercial Property Value

Most real estate professionals that use commercial real estate comps do so, of course, to understand the market value of a known property.

This allows them to harness recent historical data of properties with similar characteristics, in similar markets.

Comps are also relative to every individual market, making them a very accurate way to find the current market value of any asset type, in any market.

Identifying New Commercial Real Estate Opportunities

Real estate comps can also be used to search for new opportunities.

Essentially, if a commercial real estate professional is familiar with a property’s potential business value to them, they can take that property and view comps to see opportunities of similar value.

Investors, Brokers, and Appraisers All Benefit From Analyzing Comps

For example, an investor can take a property and run a comps search on it to find other properties that they may want to buy.

Another example is that a real estate broker can look at comps of a recently sold building in their market to quickly approach other nearby owners.

By looking at targeted comps that have been sold recently, a broker can better understand the shape of the current market surrounding those properties, beyond the individual properties themselves.

Why use real estate comps?

It should be noted that real estate comps would not be possible without property sales records found on ACRIS or other databases.

In its many ways, then, ACRIS is a powerful tool that can be used by real estate professionals and investors to make sound real estate judgments.

Real estate comps help professionals assess the value of properties and price them accordingly.

Comps help the broker or agent create marketing and pricing strategies.

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Augustine Reyes Chan
About the author

As a real estate professional, Augustine Reyes Chan has helped many buyers and sellers through the process of homeownership. He is an expert in the field of how-to for potential buyers, qualifying for a mortgage, and all that goes into car, homeowners, and renters insurance. Augustine Reyes Chan graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Bachelor's degree in Sociology.