Property records are intended to provide a full accounting of a home or property’s history. This information can be condensed into property reports that offer an overall picture of what’s important, including information about the home and its ownership history that might otherwise be hidden. Beyond providing interesting information, property records are important documents for several reasons. Read on to find out why property records matter and how they can be used.
Find Hidden Information
Home buyers, real estate investors, insurance claims adjustors, private investigators, and many other people often rely on property reports like those offered by PropertyScout to uncover essential information that would otherwise remain hidden. Full property records and reports document a home or piece of land’s entire history, including not just the chain of ownership but also other important information, which can include the following.
Land Use Restrictions
Land use restrictions include things like easements, real covenants, and equitable servitudes. What all of these have in common is that they place limits on how homeowners can use a piece of land or what types of actions can legally be carried out on it.
- Real covenants restrict construction, often by allowing buildings only up to a certain size or of a particular type. Many real covenants prohibit the construction of businesses on land intended for residential use, to give just one example.
- Easements allow other parties to use land even though they don’t assign ownership of any part of it. It’s common for utility companies to have easements allowing them to maintain power lines.
- Equitable servitudes are promises between people who own neighboring parcels of land. Common examples can include a shared driveway or access to a body of water for fishing and recreation. Equitable servitudes can be specifically enforced by law.
Potential buyers or investors almost always want to know about land use restrictions before purchasing a piece of property. In some cases, these restrictions can be used as leverage during negotiations. In others, they may leave buyers unwilling to move forward with the sale.
Liens are claims against real property that can be used as collateral to satisfy debts. Undisclosed liens are a potential buyer’s worst nightmare. They should come up on a title search, but it’s sometimes the case that property owners fail to make timely payments and the information manages to fall through the cracks. When this happens, a search of the property records will show the undisclosed liens. Common examples include:
- Unpaid taxes
- Missed payments on a mortgage
- Mechanic’s liens
- Other value assessments
Once they are uncovered, the underlying obligations behind these liens will need to be satisfied before the sale of a home or property can move forward. This is essential information for anyone interested in purchasing the home and can be used as leverage or as grounds for backing out of a deal.
Check on the Property’s Condition
Property reports often document not just the financial condition of a home, commercial building, or piece of land but also the physical condition of any structures on it. Physical problems with structures can dramatically affect a property’s value, and in some cases may even stop potential buyers in their tracks. Property reports may include internal inspections, which will reveal problems with issues like leaks and mold, as well as exterior inspections to assess foundation slippage, structural damage, and other potential issues.
Get a Property Valuation
Both property condition and land use restrictions are primarily of interest to potential buyers and investors. Property records can also be useful to other parties, though, especially when it comes to property valuation.
A surveyor can conduct an assessment of a property’s value that can place a fair and accurate valuation on the real estate. This can be useful for couples planning the division of marital property, to give just one example. Whether the property is found in a state that divides property evenly or not, the information will be vital to both members of the couple.
Find Personal Information About the Current Owner
Most people don’t want to stick their noses in others’ business, but sometimes, it’s a necessary evil. In some cases, it can be helpful to have basic knowledge about the current owner, much of which is included in property records. The person’s bankruptcy status, for example, could be very relevant to a private investigator, a lender, or an attorney.
Other forms of public information sometimes associated with property records include information about marriages and divorces. This can be helpful to buyers looking for leverage points. A couple that is getting divorced might be more motivated to sell.
Check Tax Records
Checking tax records is about more than just finding out whether the current owner has been keeping up with payments. They can also be used to confirm that the taxes paid on a property are correct given its assessed value and to check whether it is appreciating or depreciating with each sale. This information can be especially helpful to real estate investors.
Tax records also provide information about direct assessments, which can add thousands of dollars in practical costs of ownership on top of official taxes each year. Infrastructure taxes, for example, can contribute significantly to annual expenses and are not considered part and parcel of regular property taxes.
The Easiest Way to Check Property Records
There are several ways to check property records, most of which require lengthy visits to city halls, county courthouses, or clerk’s recorder’s offices for any information that isn’t readily available online. Most counties maintain only their most recent property records online and require more substantial property records searches to be performed in person. It’s also relevant to note that whether property records are obtained online or in person, there will be processing fees.
Thankfully, there are also easier ways to get access to property records. Requesting a property report from a company that specializes in this sort of investigative work will typically yield results faster and with fewer hassles. Regardless of why someone wants to check a property record, requesting a professional report is the easiest way to go about it.