How to Check a House's Background

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Things You'll Need

  • Personal computer

  • Internet access

  • Public records

Before you buy a house, it is important to research its history. That research can help you discover if any major events took place there, including the construction of new additions or other changes to the home's footprint. By reviewing local records, newspaper searches and Internet exploration, you can understand your home's history, perhaps uncovering an earlier fire, flood or an incident of crime.

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Step 1

Visit the town hall for the community where the home is located. The clerk can assist you in locating the records of the home including construction dates, blueprints, land surveys, acreage dimensions, zoning ordinances, tax information, mortgage history, previous owners' names, easements against the property and active liens, if any. In some areas, this information is stored by the county government.

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Step 2

Search local newspaper for information. Most local papers will have indexes that are searchable, either online or at the local library's microfiche section, if the records go too far back to be digital. This tactic will help you to find out if there were any crimes or other newsworthy events related to the home. Keep in mind the house number and street name may have changed since the home was built.

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Step 3

Talk to your potential neighbors. The people who live adjacent to the house may be willing to discuss with you what they know about previous inhabitants and incidents related to the property.

Step 4

Check the property tax records for the house by requesting a copy of the home's tax history card from the local tax assessor. The card should provide you with the names of previous owners, deed dates, interior and exterior building materials and style, and construction dates. This information is often incomplete, but together with the other steps offer you good information about the home's history.

Tip

Be respectful to past inhabitants. If you learn of something sad or upsetting that occurred in the home, don't contact the affected people to discuss these matters.

Utility records may help you find the names of past inhabitants, a useful tool in uncovering more information.

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