You found the perfect house, but what is it hiding?
How to research a home online before you buy
You have fallen in love with a home and you want to buy it but how can you be sure that the home doesn’t have any hidden surprises? Well, you can’t entirely. However, the following article will help you find many of the resources in Central Ohio that can uncover things not required to be disclosed in the Real Estate listing.
Sex Offender Search
If you have children or plan to, this is probably the first place you should go when you feel you have found a house you would like to make an offer on. Franklin County Sheriff has a record of all registered sex offenders. Please remember that your Realtor can’t give you the answer to this, only the place where you can find the information yourself online. This is because the information may not be updated and accurate, thus possibly resulting in thinking someone that lives at a house is a sex offender when that person no longer resides there. The Columbus Dispatch ran an article last year talking about the registry in more detail. Visit the link below or google Franklin County Ohio Sex offender search.
Years ago Bair Analytics created something called RAIDS. This was an online tool that allowed law enforcement agencies to map where crimes were being reported within their juridictions. They sold the service to Lexus Nexus and now it is known as Community Crime Map.
You can search up to a year in the past for crimes that have involved a police report. Yes, that means unreported crimes do not show up on the map. Also this means that areas where people call the police show up more on the map. What do I mean there? Well, in some neighborhoods, specifically ones where the residents don’t trust the police, they don’t call in crimes as often. Regardless, this is still a valuable resource.
It won’t show you exact addresses for the crimes due to privacy but it does still pinpoint where the crime was reported so you can figure it out for yourself by deduction. This tool allows you to choose if you want all crimes to show up on the map or just specific ones.
My recommendation is to start with violent crimes and expand from there or you are likely to scare yourself away from a neighborhood unnecessarily because of hits all over the map for smaller crimes like vandalism or disorderly conduct.
County Auditor Property Records
The Franklin County Auditor provides a wealth of information. They have a site that breaks down most of the recorded information about a property. They also have a mobile app that operates about 65% efficiently. It does most of what the website does, but I highly recommend the website if you are serious about a particular home. (At the time of this post the function of the app that shows property boundaries and a map is not functional.)
The Franklin County Auditors site is a good place to find out if someone is flipping the home if you do not have direct MLS access (the best way). Don’t want to wait for a callback from your Realtor? Look here for information about the recorded square footage, last sale date, names of owners, photo of property (the most helpful when determining whether it is a flip) and more.
I know you may not be looking to buy a foreclosure but that shouldn’t stop you from searching on the local Sheriff Auctions site to see if your address you are about to place an offer on has recently been sold at auction.
Yeah, no shit, I am telling you to Google the address. But instead of just giving you the old “Let me Google that for you” Link, I want you to go deep, deep in those search results. You may be surprised what helpful or at least interesting information you might find on a property. Examples? You can find out the home has been listed before and didn’t sell. (hmmm, I wonder why? Maybe because it is overpriced for the neighborhood?) You can uncover a news story about an event that happened at the address (uh… murder). A deep Google search can reveal a lot about a property.
Either way, put your emotions aside for a while and get some data about the house you are in love with before you put in an offer. You just might save yourself the trouble of living somewhere you regret.