You can go down to the county courthouse, and the property office can tell you the legal owner. And Florida might have it online. Just google "real estate assessment" and the county name to see if it's online.I bet it is, and you'll have the name of the owner, and if there are any tax liens. You also need the real estate attorney because they can check for other law suits and liens against the property. You also need to check with the county for zoning, and make sure what you want to use the property for is allowed. You also need to know about easements or other potential problems.
Ditto RainyDayRide's advice to find a real estate attorney.
Years ago we bought a place from a newspaper ad and assumed their mortgage with a small down payment. Since there was no RE agent involved, we had a local attorney look over all the paperwork before we signed and closed.
There are so many little details -- because it wasn't a traditional closing with a loan officer handling all the paperwork, we had to record the deed ourselves -- and it cost way more than I thought, plus it took a few tries to get all the forms filled out the way the county wanted them.
Making sure they have clear title is usually done when the title insurance agency does their research -- again in this kind of arrangement you need legal advice to make sure you don't walk into a big problem.
You need to speak with a local, knowledgeable real estate attorney... well worth the fee in such a large and significant matter.
+1. We just bought our first home. Not owner financed, but it was FSBO. Our real estate attorney was worth every penny we paid him. It was not cheap, but neither was the house (to us), so it was a drop in the bucket when all was said and done.
Find a well-reviewed real-estate attorney, and speak to a few about your situation before you settle on one.
Make sure you get owners title insurance, not just lenders title insurance. You need to be protected in case there is a hidden ex-wife, or other ownership issues.
In our state, a settlement company usually does the actual sales transaction. They usually have an attorney who can talk with you. Your realtor may have an attorney through her realty firm. We have gotten lots of free and low cost legal advice from the attorneys who are part of the transaction.
I agree with the person who said to get a survey. Make sure the title insurance covers the survey. You don't want to find out later that you only own 1/2 acre.
Check the zoning, county development plan for the community, recent applications for zoning changes or exceptions, and plans for new roads in the area. Talk with the neighbors. Check the local crime rates, crime reports, and location of local registered sex offenders. Look at the flood plain maps.
Make sure you have a good realtor. A good realtor can guide you through everything.