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What Can Purchase History Tell You About A House?

Bill Gassett's picture
History of a Property

Purchase history can tell you a lot about a house. Before the transaction, understanding all aspects of a property is in everyone's best interest, and purchase history can help with this.

The purchase history is important because it documents the property's entire past, from the chain of ownership to the condition of the structures.

It can also give you clues as to how you should maintain the house. All in all, the history of a house is an essential consideration before you make such a huge investment.

In this article, we'll look at some of the ways you can find the history of a property online and what type of information you can get from purchase history. Let's take a closer look.

Different Methods to Find Property History Online

Before buying a house, you should consider prior records. If you are curious about how to find out this kind of information on a property, you'll be glad to know that there are multiple ways you can access this.

1.    Check Property Records

The easiest and most effective way to conduct a property history check is to check the property records. You should first of all start at the county tax assessment office or a similar local entity in the area where the house is located. You should be able to find a record of the ownership history of the home and other descriptive information about the property.

Depending on local collection policies, they may maintain the documents for a fixed number of years, so you should find out where older records are archived. At the county courthouse, you can search the deeds. Start with the most recent property owner and trace the title backward.

Note how the property was transferred, whether by agreement of sale, sheriff's sale, inheritance, and so forth. Follow the paper trail to find any related records such as wills and estate distributions filed with the register of wills or liens and judgments filed in the civil court.

It would be best if you made a note of owners, boundary changes, descriptive details, neighbors mentioned, and so on. Once you trace the original owner who received the land from the government, you'll have to consider the state's history in which the property is found.

In the original 13 colonies, in addition to Hawaii, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Maine, and West Virginia, you'll proceed to research at the state archives. When it comes to the other 30 public land states, you should inspect the land entry case files and related records at the National Archives.

2.    Ask the Seller for a C.L.U.E. Report

A C.L.U.E. report can tell you a lot about the history of a property. It details the 'when,' 'what,' and 'how much' regarding past insurance events. For example, if a tree fell on the house, a C.L.U.E. report would tell you when the previous owners filed the insurance claim, what happened, and how much money they claimed.

A consortium of insurance companies issues these reports (all of which have agreed to pool information from all documented insurance events). By law, only homeowners can file for a C.L.U.E. report, so as a buyer, you'll have to work with the seller.

So you should ask the sellers whether they are willing to file for the report and notify them that these reports only go back five years and contain no personal information.

3.    Look at Building Permits and Blueprints

At the city or county level, you can review building permits and blueprints. These are usually held by a building department, city planning office, borough office, zoning and code enforcement office, or a similar entity depending on your location.

These permits and blueprints can tell you a lot about the history of a particular property. You can search these records by parcel number assigned by the county tax assessment office, permit number, or by address.

Not doing this kind of research on a home could be a significant home-buying mistake.

4.    Conduct a Title Search

If you'd like to find out who owned the house before, you should conduct a title search. These title searches sift through multiple tax records to identify previous home buyers. This way, you will know with all certainty that the person selling you the home is the actual homeowner.

Real Estate agents usually have access to title search applications. However, most of them are only willing to use them to help you if you are a ready, able, and willing buyer of a specific property.

5.    The Local Library, Preservation Foundation, or Historical Society

If you'd like to conduct a property history check of a house or neighborhood, you should contact your local library to set up an appointment. The libraries will likely have important documents, photographs, maps, newspaper articles, and historic designation reports in their archives. Other places you can have a look at include local historical societies or preservation centers.

What Information Will You Find in a Purchase History?

1.    Vital Details about Current and Previous Ownership

If you are curious about the person living in the house or previous owners, a purchase history will provide you with this information. You can discover details about current and previous ownership.

This includes the names of family members who've lived in the house, as well as their ages, birth states, marriage status, occupations, personal belongings, and other exciting information. This information can prove to be helpful when helping you decide whether to buy the property.

2.    Deed Facts

Purchase history can help you identify details about the property's title deed you would like to purchase. This information includes the current legal holder of the title, i.e., the legal identification of the property owner, details about the exchange of the home from one owner to the next, and an adequate description of the property and what it entails.

You will also be able to find out home buyers who have legally owned the property. All this information will help you make an informed decision about buying the property to avoid being scammed by someone who isn't the legal owner.

3.    Tax Specifics

All states charge real estate tax on homeowners. The most common homeowner's tax is imposed by local entities (typically a County Assessor's Office, which assesses homes for their current market value). Assessors charge homeowners this tax based on the assessment of their homes. Homeowners are also required to pay land taxes.

Purchasing history can enable you to access tax information on the property, including taxes that the seller has paid and those he hasn't. This will ensure that when you do buy the property, you will not inherit any unpaid taxes.

4.    Property Sales History

Purchasing history can provide you with a wealth of information about the past sales history of the house you are interested in buying. This will tell you who the property was sold to in the past, by how much, and how many times they sold it. Armed with this information, you'll be able to make a more informed decision on buying the property.

5.    Any Property Lien Information

Purchasing history can help you identify any property liens that may be attached to the property before you purchase it. This will ensure that you don't buy a property that someone else has a legal interest in. This is why you should always do your due diligence and make sure you conduct a property history check on the property before buying it.


The days when you'd have to drive for hours to retrieve records or search through archives to learn more about a house's history are long gone. In this digital age, there are some online resources you can use to make obtaining information about a house easy. However, it would help if you still consider hiring a realtor since they'll probably do a more thorough job of getting this information.

About the author: The above article on what can the purchase tell you about a house was written by Ben Hartwig. Ben is a Web Operations Executive at InfoTracer who takes a wide view of the whole system. He writes guides by sharing the best practices and does it the right way!

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