Property History Search: Every House has a Story

Why property history search? Are you curious about the history of your home? What kind of events may have occurred there? Did anyone famous ever live there? If only those walls could talk, right? Whether you’re a historian, an investor, or someone looking to buy a home, a property history search can offer a lot of insight. It all depends on how much you want to know, and how far back into history, you plan to search. Either way, you might uncover something you hadn’t expected.

Property History Search: The Recent Years

Some people want to learn about th e past of their home because it’s historical. On the other hand, people might want to know about the background of a home before they make an offer. Or they might need more information for a If you are looking for the recent history before you buy a home, then these next couple of methods will help.

Real Estate Websites: Your First Step

The easiest way to perform a property sales history search is by looking at sites like Zillow.com or Redfin.com. Plug in the address, and you’ll find the property’s tax history for at least a decade, if not more. Sometimes you’ll be able to find the price history if the home is on the market or sold recently.That’s one easy way to gain knowledge about the history of a home. Here is another method.

Ask the Neighbors

People in the area will undoubtedly know some of the gossip about your home. The term “nosy neighbors” isn’t unfounded, right? Go ask. You might be surprised at what kind of information they are holding on to! Want to know about the possible creep-factor of a house before you buy it? Keep reading.

Do you Believe in Bad Luck or Ghosts?

Are you curious to see if someone died in a home that you might want to purchase? Yes, that is a little morbid, but there is a website dedicated to it, so you aren’t the only person who is eager to know. Let’s face it; you may not want to live in a home where something terrible has occurred. Don’t buy that smudge stick to purify your home just yet. For $11.99, DiedInHouse.com will give you a full report on one address. You’ll find out:

  • Deaths that occurred in the home (murder, suicide, accidental, or natural)
  • If the house was used as a meth lab
  • Any fires that happened in the home
  • If a registered sex offender was living there

If you believe in bad juju or evil spirits, it’s worth every penny to find that info out before you move forward with a lease or purchase a home. Don’t care about ghosts? Just want the pertinent info? Believe it or not, a property history search using free public records will provide more details.

Public Records: The Details

Public Records Property History

There is a lot of juicy info to be found in a public records search. Public property history searches can be performed in a couple of ways: in-person or online websites and portals. If you choose the in-person method, start by going down to the county courthouse or tax assessors with the address of the property. If you want to search online, start by going to the county website. Some towns will have the information available on various county websites. In contrast, others will make you trudge down to the government offices.

What will you find out from searching public records?

Do you like jogging in the park? Do your kids play at the neighborhood playground? The maintenance of those parks is paid by your property taxes, as well.

  1.  1You’ll get the basic info, like who owns the property.
  2. You’ll also get the tax records so you can see the history of taxes per year. If you are planning to buy a home, knowing the amount of current taxes is essential. As a possible homeowner, it all goes into your bottom line.Is the current owner up to date? Or do they owe back taxes? If they do, you might be able to get a below-market deal.
  3. Has the owner filed for bankruptcy? If so, that gives you a heads up to their financial situation and why they are selling the home. A motivated seller is the best kind.
  4. Are there any lawsuits past or present? You could get that info too. Again, people might be willing to sell at a lower cost if they need the cash quickly.
  5. Is the home in foreclosure? If so, you might get the deal of a lifetime!
  6. The price or sale history of a house offers up good intel as well. If you were looking to buy a home and found out that it had been on and off the market for the last few years, wouldn’t that influence your offer?And last, but certainly not least…
  7. Is there a clear title? Before you buy a home, you need to know if there are any liens.

The Bad News About Public Records

No matter which method you prefer for a property sales history search, it could be laborious. Be prepared.

Bad News About Public Records

You will find a fair amount of info in the public records. Some of which could influence your decision to buy, as well as how much to offer. However, you might have to spend days poring over documents and websites that lead you nowhere. You might not be able to get all these details in one place, so get ready to get your hands dirty.You know government offices and websites can be maddening! Think about the post office or DMV! You get the point.

How to Search Property History Without Pulling Your Hair Out

Check out PropertyScout.io. The beauty of using this site is A). You can do a property sales history search from the comfort of your own home; you can even do it in your undies. And B). Even more importantly, it’s a one-stop-shop. Here’s what you’ll get:

  1. 1A list of all the owners in recent history
  2. 2How much they bought it for
  3. 3Who their lenders were
  4. 4If they had a second mortgage on it
  5. 5If there was a foreclosure sale
  6. 6The taxes
  7. 7The market value

Not bad for never leaving your house. Now let’s say, in all your research, you find out there is a lien on a home you want to purchase. The party’s not over, but you need to know what to do.Let’s get into that.But first – a few definitions.

Titles and Liens – What You Need to Know

Property Titles and Liens

What is a title? A title refers to who has legal ownership and the right to use a property. A defective title can cause complications with establishing ownership and therefore impact a sale. A lien is something like a mini-mortgage that gets put on your property by someone else. It will eventually force the homeowner to pay the debt. For example, a contractor puts in a new HVAC system, but the homeowner never fully pays the bill. The contractor will place a lien upon the home for the rest of that money. When the owner tries to sell the property, the lien must be paid off before the sale is complete, or it could come out of the proceeds of the sale.

How to Search a Property History for Titles, Liens, etc.

Luckily, this part is easy because your attorney or title company does it for you. Before you purchase anything, they will check the title for liens or anything that could affect the value of the property. You know, the essential information. Which is also why a property search history is important to an agent. Your agent wants to get you the best deal. The more you know about the current owner’s financial situation and why they are selling, the better at negotiating you’ll be. You’ll have the upper hand. Armed with knowing the reason behind the sale and if there are any encumbrances, you will be able to make an educated decision about how much to offer. Or not offer.

How About An Example?

Your title company performs a property history search in Santa Clara County, California, and finds out there is a mechanics lien on the property. You have to decide whether it is worth going forward with the purchase of this property. You plan to buy a home for $250,000 but find out through a title or deed search that the current owner has a first mortgage of $175,000. There is also a mechanics lien of $120,000. You can’t close on this sale unless the seller pays the difference. In most cases, this won’t happen, and without proof of the ability to pay off the liens, you should walk away. However, your stubborn husband wants the property despite the facts. Have your attorney make sure the owner can clear the title of all liens BEFORE you continue with the purchase. It is exactly what your agent will advise you to do. If the title isn’t clear, the owner will have to pay off the lien at the closing. If there is a $100,000 lien on the property and you are only going to offer $70,000, it won’t be accepted. The owner needs to make enough money to cover the lien. Buying a home requires a significant investment, so at a minimum, you should know any obstacles in the way. OK, so we’ve covered the basic property history search channels, but what if you want to go even deeper? Further back in history? With a little more digging, it’s possible to go even further back in time.

Property History Search: Let’s take a Peek into History

You know you live in a historical home, but you don’t know much more than that. You are dying to know the origins. What if someone important lived there? What if some scandal occurred in the home? Just like we can find the genealogy of humans, we can do similarly for a home with a complete property history search.

Let’s Map it Out

Historical maps of a city

Start by searching historical maps of the city. Certain cities have them available online. Just do a google search for “historical maps for X,” and quite a few sites will come up. Otherwise, there are sites like WhatWasThere.com to assist in the search as well.But what if your home is more than 100 years old and you think it might be historical? It might all be in the deeds.

Property Deed History Search: What You Can Learn

A deed is a written document that displays who owns a property. In a home sale transaction, both the seller and the buyer must sign the deed to transfer the property’s ownership rights. The courthouse or assessor must record the deed. Some of the earliest deeds recorded date back to the American Revolution! So doing a property deed history search can really come in handy when you want to know if Benjamin Franklin owned your home.

Start by searching for the deed with the current owner’s names. Then work your way backward from deed to deed. Each deed will provide info on who conveyed the property to whom. The succession of owners is called a chain of title. OK, so your homes not historical. Ben never stepped foot in it. But you still want to learn more about your home – enter building permits.

The Bigger Picture with Building Permits

Find out where the building permits for your town are kept on file. Typically, they can be found in the government, city planning, or county offices. If it is an older building, you might have to check the records at the local library archives or historical society.If you can locate the original permits for your home, you could find out who the architect and builders were. You may also learn the cost of construction, the original plan, and the first owner. Building permits will give you a more complete property history search if you live in or want to buy a historic home. Depending on how in-depth you want to go, you could then research the biographical info about every owner.

The Wrap Up

Performing a complete property history search to find out the genealogy of a home might be fascinating. Building permits, maps, and the first owners are fun to learn about if you live in or want to purchase a historic home. However, most of that info isn’t necessary if you are just planning to put in an offer on a property. In that case, a basic property history search will do. And it’s much easier.

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