Buying a home or property has been the American Dream for almost 100 years! But before you buy, I want to make sure you conduct thorough due diligence on your home. You don’t want to be stuck with an unsafe, unpermitted home, that costs thousands to fix.
A thorough search can help. A property search can dig up information such as the history of improvements, foreclosure information, lawsuits and civil records, how long the seller has owned the property, permitting rules and regulations, building codes, property line barriers, easements, and many other valuable resources. There are even websites that let you run a background check on the owner to make sure they are trustworthy!
Here are some ways to run a search:
There are departments in every city that hold records of the property. For example, the department of building and safety will provide zoning restrictions, property surveys, soil and geographical reports, records of survey, building permits, code enforcements, and so on. County courthouses may provide property deeds, bankruptcy proceedings, or civil lawsuits.
Fortunately, in the age of technology, public records have become much more accessible. The days of heading down to your local department of building and safety or courthouse are over. Websites like checkthem.com, propertyshark.com, zillow.com, trulia.com, and realtor.com, have cataloged information online.
These sites can help find various documents such as property tax records, title documents, ownership records, mortgage files, and deeds. You may also run a background check on the owner to see if they are a trustworthy person.
Ask Your Real Estate Agent
Your real estate agent is paid to help you. You should always consult your agent to find information about your property. All agents should be able to locate the history like: like the number of days on the market, the previous sale price, tax information, comparable sale prices, square footage, and permitted space.
Agents subscribe to property data companies that provide this type of information. They can quickly locate tax information which may reflect deeper information on the home.
Hire an Independent Professional
A property appraiser can find information such as the quality, price, and tax information from your new home. For a few hundred dollars, you will immediately know if you are getting a good deal on your home. If the appraiser says your home is worth $355,000, and you are paying $310,000, you know you are getting a great deal.
A property surveyor can find all building and safety information of your home. This person should go to your local department of building and safety to get zoning restrictions, permits, building codes, property line records, and survey records. They should compare official documents to your actual home to ensure everything is allowed, zoned, and that your property is not encroaching on your neighbor’s land.
Tip #1: I recommend hiring appraisers and surveyors that do not associate with your real estate agent. Unfortunately, real estate agents like to work with people that help the sale. You want an independent, unbiased opinion. Tip #2: I always suggest using a referral from a friend or expert when possible. If not, be sure to check the reviews of your independent professional online. Websites like yelp.com are a valuable tool to help you conduct your research.
Home hunting is a happy and exciting time. By doing correct due diligence, you can live in peace knowing that your home is legal and safe. Enjoy!