You can learn a lot from looking up the sales history of a house. You can tell how the house has held its property value over the years. You can tell if the house has ever been in foreclosure or the subject of a short sale. The best part is this information is free and part of the public record.
Buying a house is a big life decision. You will spend most of your time there, possibly build a family there and create great memories in that home. Therefore, whether it is your first home or your fifth, it's best not to make the decision lightly. If you're a prospective homeowner and you want to do some research on a possible property, you can look up the sale history of the house.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
You can look up the sale history of a house by checking the public records available at the county recorder of deeds or the tax assessor's office. You can also find the sale records online.
Why Look Up the Sale History of a House?
You can learn a lot from looking up the property sale history of the home you are considering purchasing. The sale history holds tremendous value because, ultimately, the information you uncover can help you negotiate a better deal or convince you to walk away from a bad one. You may discover valuable information that wasn’t disclosed by the current seller, such as whether the house was ever in foreclosure, whether the current sale is a short sale (when a home is being sold for less than what the current owner owes on it) and how long the current owner has owned the home.
Check the Public Records
Property sales history records are indeed public records, and so you do have access to them. You can typically find these records at the city or county level where the home is located, usually at the office of the recorder of deeds. You can also find important information about the property at the tax assessor's office, which will either by for the city or the county.
Once you have located the correct office, walk in during normal business hours and explain what you are looking for. Someone there should be able to assist you in getting started on your search and obtaining the information you need. You may be charged a fee for the search as well as any copies you take with you.
What is the Recorder of Deeds?
The recorder of deeds, also known as the registrar of deeds or register of deeds, is the local government official responsible for maintaining public records related to real estate ownership. The county's recorder of deeds is responsible for recording every action that affects ownership or title to a home or a plot of land, including deeds, mortgages, easements, foreclosures, tax liens and judgment liens. These property records can usually be found in one location where the records have been recorded and also can be researched. Documents include deeds, liens, mortgages and releases to name a few. Most recorder's offices can be found locally, at the county level, within a given state..
The physical office of the recorder of deeds will likely have both paper files and electronic files for you to search, so a visit to the office will likely be time well-spent.
Searching Online for Property Sales History
Most counties will have an online database where you can search for the same information as you would at the physical office of records. You will typically need a street address, parcel number or some other piece of identifying information. Once you enter this information into the database, it should pull up the information you are looking for. You should have access to the same information you would if you were in the actual office of the recorder.
Of course, there are many other websites offering similar information, some for a fee, many for free. It would be wise to use the local government’s website, which is free and likely up to date.