How to Use Your Tax Assessor’s Site to Research Your Potential Real Estate Deals

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When a motivated seller calls me, the first thing I do is pull up a couple of online tools while I have them on the phone.

I got in the habit of doing this a long time ago, and it really helps when I am speaking to someone for the first time. I also believe that this helps you to have a much more intelligent conversation with the person on the other end of the line.

The Tax Assessor’s Site

I love using our local tax assessor’s site which we refer to as the “PVA” or property valuation site.  Just about any seasoned investor will be familiar with this site.

In some areas, you can get full access at no charge.  In my area you can only get a few bits of information free.  Just about every real estate investor has a paid subscription here which costs $30 per month.  I can tell you that I use it just about every day.  Here are just a few ways you can use the site.

Motivated Seller Calls

Whenever a motivated seller calls, the first thing I do is pull the house up so that I can take a look. One of my favorite things about this site is that there is a picture of the house.  Just by looking at this picture and the neighborhood description I immediately know a lot about this property.

RelatedThat Terrifying Moment When Newbies Talk to A Motivated Seller

I will know –

  • If it’s in a good area
  • What the houses in the neighborhood look like
  • The value it is being taxed on
  • Whether there is a homestead exemption

If I am unsure of the area, there is also a detailed map on the site.

In addition to that, it has almost all of the property information-

  • The square footage of the home
  • A sketch of the property
  • The number of bathrooms
  • Information about the type of utilities
  • Sewer/Septic information
  • Whether or not it has a garage
  • The type of foundation; crawl, slab or basement
  • It also tells the dimensions of the property (which I almost never use)

One thing that is routinely incorrect is whether the house has central AC. I have found on older homes central air conditioning wasn’t installed a lot of times when the home was built, but it is an update they now have.  This is something you will want to verify with the seller.

Property Tax Information

Our site has a direct link to the Sheriff’s department so you can see if this year’s property taxes have been paid. There is also another link to the site where you can determine if there are back taxes owed. So with one click, you can have all of this information while you have the seller on the phone.

Flood Plain Determination

This is one thing that will be useful in some areas, and totally irrelevant in others.  Louisville is located on the Ohio River.  And as strange as it might seem, these are not the only areas that you will have to be concerned with as far as flood insurance is concerned.

A property might be located near a stream or simply in a low lying area that is prone to flooding, so I always pull up the Flood Plain Determination site and verify that there is no problem with the location of this house.

There have been probably 5 or 6 instances when I have gotten an unpleasant surprise when there was no body of water within 15 miles of this house but it was till in a flood plain.  Now assessing that information is just part of my regular process.

I’m a big believer in using all the tools available to you in your business.  So check out the tax assessor’s site for sure, and familiarize yourself with the flood plain determination procedure if that is a concern in your area.

I made a quick video on just how our site works. Check it out here.

 I’m curious: do you pull the tax assessor’s site whenever you speak to a motivated seller?

 

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About Author

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.

11 Comments

  1. Do you get some information from the seller while you are locating the house on the tax assessor’s site? In my area we have a geographical information service (GIS) that also has links to the tax assessor’s office. Giving addresses on that site usually doesn’t work, but using PIN numbers will. Any suggestions for stalling the conversation while you find the house online?

    • Steve Babiak on

      Just ask the seller to tell you about the house. And let them talk. If you have some scripted questions that you want to get answers to, they will give you some of those answers while talking without you even asking.

    • Gene – I always start out by asking the seller to tell me about the house, and I write what they say down on my property information form. There are several of these forms in the “forms place” here on BP. Then I will just start filling in the blanks by asking questions.

      The trick is to keep it conversational. In time, it will just come naturally.

      Sharon

  2. We focus on apartments and self storage and right now there aren’t many motivated sellers calling but like you @Sharon, my first stop when I find an interesting property is the assessor’s website (this varies from market to market, sometimes the info is at the Dept of Records).

    Many of the markets we’re active in have the sales or deed history included for the property and it’s quite useful to see when the owner bought the property and what they paid for it. That’s probably my favorite feature.

    The other feature we use is the search on owner’s name when it is available. This will show you what else they own and with the deed history you can an idea of where they are in their investing career. Remember to search on variations of the owner’s name, especially if there is a spouse. Don’t know about sfrs but in commercial it’s not uncommon to see the husband quit claim properties into their spouse’s name, especially if the husband is a builder or developer.

    If the property is owned by an entity instead of an individual it takes a little more digging but often you can find a contact number for an owner by searching the entity’s name (on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc).

    Good hunting-

    • Giovanni –

      It works exactly the same way here. If someone owns a lot of property the name may be slightly different on each record, so you have to be a bit of a detective at some times.

      I also have the ownership information that goes back to the time those records went online. Often you can see a decline in property values in some areas which makes for a good argument on your low offer.

      I also use this every now and then if I have a house I want to sell to someone who is already a landlord in that area. This works great for areas that are primarily rentals. I can pull up the street and see who owns multiple houses. I made a video about this a while back too.

      We seem to be doing detective work a lot as real estate investors.

      Sharon

  3. Tom & Roni Keith on

    Hi Sharon, it seems that investors do a Lot of research in this work. We search homes in Tax records, real estate listings, and google. I have always believed that information is the true power in Life, not always the almighty dollar. Thanks for the message. Tom

    • Hi Tom –

      That is certainly true. We do a lot of research in this business. We are really lucky that we have these awesome online tools. It sure makes things easier.

      Sharon

  4. Matt Harmon on

    By far the tax assessors and/ or property appraiser county sites are the WORST at trying to come up with a real value on the property.

    Until you do a real market analysis, you’re going to come up with a poor idea of the value.

    The best that the taxman can give you is a ballpark figure. Rarely of any real value.

    • They are in my area too Matt.

      But there is still a ton of valuable information on there. It’s especially good to pull up when you are talking with a seller so you have some basic information. You need comps to figure out the value of course.

      Sharon

  5. Sara Cunningham on

    Oklahoma works the same way. I use the site for all my analysis work when looking at whether the property is worth pursuing or not. I got caught out when we started investing and ended up buying a property in a flood zone. I wouldn’t have bought it if I had known I don’t think. The costs have skyrocketed this year so now that’s one of the first things I check out on the site. I was recently looking to buy some property in Delaware and was amazed how antiquated the system was. No help at all just a list of who owned property by address only no other information at all.

    • Hi Sara –

      I use it all the time. Our site has a whole lot of general information, and I really like that I can pull it up when I am talking to the seller. Just being able to look at a picture of the property and see the exact neighborhood the house is in is a big plus for me. I don’t use it for property values but I do look at the sales history. Thanks for your comments.

      Sharon

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