I'm currently trying to find an efficient way to determine how much equity there is on a house. As of right now, I go to the county recorder website and pull out the initial loan amount. If anyone knows a more efficient way to do this, please let me know.
I think you are on track with the best way to try and find the equity in a home you want to purchase. Of course, if you just have the initial loan amount, you have no idea if the owners refinanced or anything so it really is an estimate.
With homes purchased in the past few years, you can probably assume most people would not have refinanced yet. With recently sold properties, if the tax records show that the lien is for far less than you estimate that property sold for, you can smartly assume the owners put up a large down payment and therefore have more equity.
With houses that have not been sold in a while, my recommendation is to use your Real Estate agent to see if he/she can find out for you. This is dangerous because some owners will get turned off by this but it is worth a shot if you are really interested.. Who knows, they might just tell you!
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