How to conduct a property history research before you buy
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When preparing to buy a home, it makes sense to learn all you can about the history of the properties that interest you.
Searching public property records can reveal important details about the property and help you make a more informed decision when it comes time to buy.
Here’s what you need to know about home history research:
What can you learn from public property records?
Public property records contain several pieces of information that you may find useful when considering buying a home, including:
- Sales history, including who owned the house and what they paid for it
- Tax history, including current tax privileges
- History of the deed, including charges and other privileges
- Lot size
- The area of the house
- Number of bedrooms and bathrooms
- Zoning information
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How to find ownership records
When searching through property records, it may be a good idea to look not only for information such as sales records, but also other public information about previous owners, such as a divorce or bankruptcy, which may be used to reconstruct the history of the house.
You may also need to pay for your search for public records. States and counties are allowed to charge a fee, typically per page. Call your local recorder’s office ahead of time to get an idea of what your application will cost you.
Another option is to search using an online directory like Netronline, which contains information on official state websites that can help you access publicly available documents.
Check: 13 tips for first-time home buyers: your essential tips
Real estate sales registers
Where to find them: County or city registrar’s office
Check with your local registrar’s office to find out who owned the house in the past and how much they paid for the house. This can give you a history of any increase in the cost of ownership over time.
Usually, you can find out who the current owner is and how much he still owes on his mortgage. You may need to pay a small fee to get a report from your recorder office.
However, in some cases it is also possible to view the history of sale prices for free on real estate websites, like Redfin, or to obtain this information for free from a real estate agent.
Where to find them: State Tax Commission, County Registrar’s Office, or County Assessor’s Office
If you are searching the history of a property, you also want to know if there are any tax liens on the property. A tax lien can make it difficult for a lender to get your mortgage approved because the government has primary control over the property.
In addition to knowing if there is a tax lien that could delay the process, tax records can also give you an idea of what you might expect to pay in property taxes, as well as how often you could potentially see. a raise.
Learn more: Property tax assessment: what is it and what it means
Where to find them: County Clerk’s Office, County Registrar’s Office, or State Deeds Register
A deed search can be one of your best tools to help you learn more about a property. You can find various liens on the property, as well as whether there are any easements, such as a utility easement in a subdivision or an easement that requires the sharing of a road that crosses the property.
The history of the deed can also provide information on previous owners, the value of the land, and some zoning restrictions.
Marriage and divorce certificates
Where to find them: County Clerk’s Office, County Registrar’s Office, or Local Courts
While not exactly related to your property history research, marriage and divorce records can provide insight into what is going on with current owners. You might receive information on the motivations of sellers to leave.
However, this information is usually not something you want to mention when negotiating.
Where to find them: State or County Registrar’s Office and Online Databases
There are many online search sites that offer information on death certificates, in addition to state and county registries. If you want to know if anyone has actually died inside the house, Died at home can be a good resource.
This database offers information on the death of a person on the property, including the presence of chemicals or laboratories, and other circumstances.
If you are worried about someone passing away in a house and why they died in the house, this can be a sticking point for your purchase.
3 other ways to find out about a property
You don’t need to search public records to learn more about a property’s history. Here are some other ways to find out more about a property.
1. Ask your real estate agent
Your The real estate agent can usually extract the relevant information you need through their own property search or from information on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). A good real estate can help you learn more about the home, so ask your family and friends for references to find the best one.
2. Consult the National Register of Historic Places
If you are buying an older home, check the National Register of Historic Places. If your home is on the list, you might be limited in terms of changes you can make to the property.
For example, you may need to get additional permits to make improvements to the home or to make other changes to the property.
Check the situation and make sure you understand the limits before you make the purchase.
3. Have a securities firm do the research for you
You can also ask a title company to search the history of the property. A title company will pull the records on your behalf and can provide information on liens, tax arrears, HOA fees, current and past owners, and more.
This search can cost you a few hundred dollars, depending on the state you are in and the property in question. But it can also save you a lot of time and effort, so it can be worth the cost to avoid combing through all the files yourself.
Keep reading: 30 mortgage terms you need to know: the ultimate glossary for homebuyers