What can you find out in advance? House research 101

From doing online research about the place we wanted to buy, we were able to gather a lot of information. Doing this turned out to be quite helpful us in the bidding process. We also gathered details that have been useful to anticipate what we’d be dealing with during the purchase and remodel.

So what kind of information is out there waiting to be found? Take a look at what we were able to find!

In general

In our area we’re able to to look up the following information using various county websites:

  • Property tax rates, dates of payment and whether there were any back taxes owed
  • Assessment data – including home value, materials used for roofing, siding, number of rooms, etc. and sometimes pictures or drawings
  • Lot lines and other GIS data
  • Historical information about ownership
  • School district
  • Comparable home values
  • Names of all the surrounding property holders — as well as the same information for their houses!

Satellite and map views of the property from Bing and Google showed us what it looked like during other seasons. We were also able to view the condition of the roof from above, at all angles.

From sites like Trulia and Zillow we are able to see what the suggested value of the house might be, find comparables, see houses for sale in the same neighborhood and more.

Our local utility company website gave us the average utilities for the property. (If yours does not have it online, the same info can usually be found by calling. In our state they have are required to provide the info and it’s based on the last 12 months of usage history.)

HUD specific

When it comes to HUD homes specifically, there is additional information to be gleaned.

HUD takes all bids for their properties via their HUDHomes site at http://www.hudhomestore.com. In addition to the obvious property and agent info, the Addendums tab for each listing shows disclosures, a property condition report, and more. You can also find details about the bid process, the listing period, who can bid, etc. HUD also posts bid results online for a short period of time.

On the HUD Home Value site it shows the original list price, each time the listing is updated (price drops), when it’s de-listed or bid results are posted. For the bid, you can see the purchaser type, purchase price, and real estate broker that helped with the transaction. The site even suggest a bid amount! It’s a very valuable tool. In our case, we were able to tell that there had previously been a bid accepted, how much it was for, and that it had been from an investor, not a potential owner occupant or neighbor.