When you’ve fallen in love with a home, it can be hard to resist putting an offer in as soon as you can. Researching a house before putting in an offer can tell you a lot about whether it’s right for you. After all, you want to know as much information about the home as possible to ensure it’s safe and won’t throw any unpleasant surprises at you. This includes professional home inspections and checking a home’s public records.

Thankfully, many details of a home are public and can easily be found with the right resources.

home inspection

What records to look for

When researching a home, you should have access to the following public records. Much of this will also be addressed during the inspection and appraisal, but you can look it up yourself prior to making an offer as well:

Red flags to keep an eye out for

You can research the home you’re considering making an offer on, but it’s no substitution for an in-person walkthrough, which should provide more in-depth insights. When viewing the home in person, red flags to keep an eye out for include:

  • Structural problems
  • Mold
  • Old wiring
  • Old plumbing

While your inspection should uncover any work done on the property without a permit that could affect the home’s square footage, price, and other details, it is still important for you to also keep an eye out for any shoddy craftsmanship while touring the home, since that may be a sign of unpermitted repairs.

You may request for these issues to be fixed by the seller or use them to lower your offer so you can do it yourself, but it’s up to you whether the problems are a showstopper.

Check the local city or county department

Your local city or county department, like the courthouse, is an excellent way to check a home’s public records like lien and tax information. While these records are public and some are available online, you may have to fill out some paperwork to request that information.

Tread carefully when researching online

Home search sites like Zillow and Realtor will have details like foreclosures, past selling prices, and improvements to the home listed. But tread carefully here—the information here is not always 100% reliable and should only be used as a jumping off point in your search.

Ask your real estate agent

Your real estate agent is an excellent resource for checking a home’s public records and understanding what you need to keep an eye out for. They have access to their in-depth resources like:

  • MLS data
  • Tax assessor records
  • Title company databases

When researching a potential home, don’t be shy. Ask your agent any questions you have about the property. The information you receive should be used to make the decision on whether or not to extend an offer. If you do find something negative, know that it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker! No home is perfect and many sellers are willing to work with you to negotiate the sale price or concessions.

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The above information is for educational purposes only. All information, loan programs and interest rates are subject to change without notice. All loans subject to underwriter approval. Terms and conditions apply. Always consult an accountant or tax advisor for full eligibility requirements on tax deduction.