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Macomb County protects the American Dream of homeownership

Posted by Crystal Brenner, Administrative Assistant, Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds

Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Crystal Brenner, Administrative Assistant for the Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds. See what other organizations that use the Google Search Appliance have to say.

Last year, Macomb County set out to improve public real estate search, to help property owners reduce the risk of real estate fraud, and make it easier for Macomb County property owners to protect their property rights. Along the way we may have created one of the nation's best and perhaps one of the first high-tech real estate records search and fraud detection tools. We were inspired to act by a CBS 60 Minutes exposé uncovering crucial ownership documents for real estate throughout the nation that are often bogus or even nonexistent.

In the past, Macomb County property records were available on paper or online in an electronic format that only allowed searching on a few, limited fields, such as owner name or property description, indexed differently throughout the years. Inconsistent indexing is an issue for registers of deeds throughout the nation, and it points to the need for a search solution that can find stored electronic deeds with ease.

In partnership with Xerox, we set out to do better and help owners detect potential fraud. We scanned every Macomb County real estate record - millions of public records, from dirt to present day. Because we wanted an intuitive, familiar search interface that would let us look quickly through millions of documents, we immediately chose the Google Search Appliance.

Called the “Super Index,” we launched a public prototype in September 2012. The Super Index currently includes millions of pages of public Macomb County real estate documents, going back all the way to 1818. And each year, we’ll add more than 180,000 new documents.

Users can search the Super Index at no charge. What makes it “super” is that searches may now include all recognized text on the documents, including witness and notary names. Once an individual finds the documents they’re looking for, and reviews a thumbnail to be sure it’s what they need, we either provide a link or send a PDF file of those public documents for $6 per document.

One user said, “This is great stuff! Once again, the Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deed’s office is providing the public with a useful tech-savvy resource to gain easy access to public information, with the convenience [of access] from one’s home or office.”

For many people, owning a home is a key part of the American Dream, and we wanted to give our citizens in Macomb the power to protect that dream. We took bold action to combat fraud and educate homeowners about their rights and property. With help from Xerox and the Google Search Appliance, Macomb County is making the search for the American Dream a little easier.

Join us for a Google Hangout On Air on April 24, 2013 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM EST to see for yourself how the Google Search Appliance is making a difference in our city.