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Investigating a Home's Past Before Buying

Every house has a unique history. While some historical anecdotes are fascinating, others may raise questions that you should carefully research before making an offer. Here are some ways to explore a home's past before buying it and moving in.

Review the Online Listing

You can learn a lot about the home's history by looking at its listing on Zillow or Redfin. For example, you can learn its age and when the owners last renovated it. You may also discover its last sale date, property tax history, and local school districts.

Ask Your Agent

An experienced real estate agent can tell you a lot about the house, its history, and the neighborhood's history. Ask the agent to show you the MLS listing, which is more accurate than Zillow or Redfin. The agent may also be able to tell you about the home's sales history.

Conduct a Property History Search

Search the registry of deeds to find out all the house's owners. A place changing hands multiple times in the past few years may be something to dive into deeper. Depending on your potential home’s age, you can also search old census records to discover the names, ages, occupations, and other information about the house's former occupants. Genealogy websites can also have interesting information.

Also, research the home's current owners and see if you can determine why they want to sell. Consider negotiating a better price if they need to sell right away, especially if you can close the deal quickly.

Check for Tax Liens

Tax lien information comes up in the title search as part of the settlement process. However, knowing tax lien information before you make an offer can be beneficial.

A property tax lien is a concern for a potential buyer. However, if the seller pays off the lien at the time of sale, it need not be a dealbreaker. An excellent real estate agent can advise you.

Check for Recent Damage

You can find out whether a house has experienced significant damage by looking at its Comprehensive Loss Underwriter Exchange report. The report reveals insurance claims over the past seven years. It will also give you an idea of how much you need to pay to insure the home. You or your agent must obtain the report from the current property owner.

Contact Previous Owners

Previous owners can provide information about a home you can't find in written records. They may be happy to share memories of living there and any exciting tidbits they'd learned about the house.

Visit the Local Library

Libraries may have maps, old newspapers, and photographs that can tell you about your home or the neighborhood around it. If you want to search for old photos, make an appointment. A local historical society also may have helpful information.

Read Local History Books

A book exists on the history of most U.S. neighborhoods. These books can give you clues about the history of your home. You can find local history books through many sources, including The History Press.

When You Find Your Dream Home

Once you find your dream home, contact us. We'll help you move into that home efficiently.