The ability for anyone to search for a deed or plat for property in Polk County will soon be available for anyone with an internet connection.
The full digitization of the records held by the office of Polk County Superior Court Clerk Stacie Baines reached a milestone last week as representatives from Kofile Technologies picked up the last deed index books to be taken and scanned as part of a new project.
“We are truly at the end of what needs to be scanned so it would be more readily available,” Baines said. “This is a big deal for me, and a big deal for Polk County. If you’ve ever had to search for something in our office, you will appreciate the accessibility and ease that will come with this.”
The project was green-lighted by the Polk County Commission in October as they approved the use of $165,000 of funds from the CARES Act to cover the cost. Baines said the final cost will come in at around $160,000 and will not use any local tax revenue.
When it is completed, anyone who needs to look up deed or plat information can search on the Georgia Superior Court Clerks’ Cooperative Authority’s website — www.gsccca.org — and Kofile’s website.
Baines said Kofile has done the daily new indexing for Polk County for the last 15 years and uploading images to the Clerks’ Authority’s website, so it was easy to go with them to do all of the records that are stored in the Polk County Courthouse.
“Currently, have deeds back to 1985 available through the authority’s website. Also, since the project began in October, we now have all recorded plats available,” Baines said, adding that some of the older plats — dating from the 1950s and before — were not in the best condition.
“Back then a lot of the plats were recorded on carbon paper, so the background image is dark. So when those were scanned the quality of the image is not the best, but it’s a true, accurate record of what is on file with the clerk’s office.”
The deed books that are wrapping up being scanned date back to as far as the early 1900s and, according to Baines, were “literally in pieces” when representatives came to pick them up due to the elements and the way they were stored over the decades.
Baines said while most of the public might not need to search for titles or plats on a regular basis, companies who have title searchers for certain reasons will benefit the most from it.
“Title insurance requires a 50-year back chain, and that will be accomplished once this project is over. And it will help me to not have as much traffic in the office. That is important to me, especially with the COVID rate being so high right now,” Baines said.
“Title searchers will be able to work from home and find everything online, and the public be able to do that as well. We’ll still be available to help the public and we want them to come in, but this is able to help those who don’t live close by, who may live out of town and out of state, to pull up plats online.”
The project will also help free up employees in the clerk’s office to do other tasks instead of having to go to the second floor of the courthouse to search for a deed or plat. And Baine said they have had plenty to do despite the pandemic.
She said while things slowed down in the civil division, her office recorded an average of 500 deeds per month in 2020, a big jump over the same period in 2019.
“As far as our office, we get this work in every day since everyone has been able to stay working from home. When rates went down we had a lot of refinancing. Our deed ladies have done a great job,” Baines said.
Also, Baines said her office can now accept real estate filings through e-file, meaning that attorneys and real estate agents don’t have to bring physical papers to the office to have them recorded. Security deeds are the only thing that can’t be e-filed.
There is a fee associated with looking up records through the clerks’ authority’s website, and Baines said they will have a fee sheet available for anyone interested in it. She said most title searchers are members of the authority and pay an annual fee that covers all searches.