You can usually verify if there is a lien filed against a property by checking in the public records for that county. However, the online filings could lag by a couple of weeks, and therefore aren't totally up-to-date. Also, errors are sometimes found in the county records.
The MLS isn't always correct either--After all, we're all human, and humans have been known to make mistakes! That's why you usually see something like this at the bottom of the Multiple Listings pages:
"Thought to be reliable but is not guaranteed to be accurate; you are advised to verify facts that are important to you."
Or, the agent could be mistaken. Is it really worth getting into a legal dispute with him? So what do you do to find out if the property has a lien on it?
Well, there IS a good reason for doing a title search and examination, and obtaining title insurance. And this situation is certainly an example of why title insurance is important.
One word of caution though--If the Buyer is purchasing a foreclosure, the lender's title work will only cover the lender's period of ownership. This might be only a few months, or even a few weeks.
In this case, the Buyer would do well to protect his/her interests by paying for a more extensive search, one that covers the previous owner's period of ownership.
"The most important thing a buyer can do is work with a buyer broker." As stated by AARP and the Consumer Federation of America and REALTOR News.
Beverly Howe, GRI, ABR, TRC, CIPS
they said....and my all time favorite...
"the neighbor said"......
The reality is the listing agent said, "The title will be clean when it transfers to new ownership."
How many buyer protection barricades are in place to assure that outcome (clean title) and how hard it would be to to overcome these barricades and allow a buyer to get into that situation. The buyer agent, not the listing agent, should be held accountable for failure to look after their clients best interests.
You should have a Title Policy when you go through Escrow; which will show any Liens (and protect you if they do not disclose them).
With Real Estate; you do not have to take anyone's WORD about anything.