Basic Property Research begins with Real Estate Records!

Real Estate records are publicly available records of the taxable value of a property. These records are the records used to determine how much tax is charged each homeowner on any given year based on the market value assessment determined by the city and they are very valuable in assessing an initial value for tax foreclosure property. Market valuations of properties are updated on a given schedule, usually every three years. The accuracy of market valuations for any given property varies according to county and to neighborhood, but these values provide a great starting point in determining the value of a property. Other valuable information listed includes square footage of a property, exterior building material, age of a home and the number of bedrooms and baths. They also list whether or not a home has any tax exemptions which is important as exemptions effect redemption periods. Google Earth provides you with a physical photograph of a property without having to leave the comfort of your sofa! Once I have obtained my Tax Sale List, I use real estate records and Google Earth to help me narrow my list of prospects.

Every county has a website for their respective Appraisal District. Typically, a county’s Appraisal District Website is some combination of the county name and CAD. For example, Dallas’ website is www.dallascad.org. If you do not know your county’s Appraisal District Website address, you can find most on the Tax Sale List tab located on the left.

Once you have located the correct website, work county by county (if you intend to research several different county sales) and input each address in the “Property Search by Address” field of the county’s Appraisal District Website. A typical result will look like the following:

I record the following information about each tax foreclosure property on a spreadsheet:

  • Property value
  • Property age
  • Number of # of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Square footage
  • Type of exterior
  • Home Owner’s Redemption?

Armed with this basic information you will probably be able to narrow your list based on your own parameters of value, location, number of bedrooms, age, etc. The last part of real estate records that you want to access is photos of the house. These are provided by Google Maps and they are NOTofficial records. They are also only updated very infrequently. For this reason, never use the photos to make a decision to bid on a property. Only use the photos to eliminate properties. For example, if a property appears badly run down and you know from the property records that you reviewed that it has not changed hands in 8 years, and you know from the fact that it is being offered at the Sheriff’s sale that the owners are short on money, it is unlikely that the home has been improved upon since the photo was taken. However, if it looks reasonably sound, there is nothing to guarantee that the home did not burn to the ground the day after the photo was taken, and no one at the sale is required to divulge this information!

To Use Google Earth, simply

  • Go to Google Maps – Google Maps Website
  • Input the address you wish to research
  • Click on the photo of the property that appears on the left side of the screen.
  • By placing your curser on the photo and dragging the curser, you can view homes to the left and right of the property as well

Google Earth gives you the opportunity to view the property in question and the neighborhood. Once you have completed viewing the property records and the photographs of the properties, you are ready to move on to Step Four – Property Visits – as described on the homepage.