Homeowners hear this line a lot: “You need to build up your home’s equity!” You may have also heard that you can use your home’s equity for everything from refinancing to consolidating debts. But what is home equity, and why is it so important? When should you use it? Home equity is the amount of […]
Why you should always check a home’s public records before you buy
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.
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:
- Tax liens
- Warranty deeds
- Property tax records
- Date the house was built
- Past home prices
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
- 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.