Open Records Request

12 Replies

I just took a look at an abandoned house that has a "Pending Demolition" notice on the door.Just got off the phone with that department and they said it is because they have asked the owner multiple times to make some repairs to the property and they haven't been done. I checked the taxes and the owner has $10,200 in unpaid taxes. I am about to do an open records request on this abandoned property. What all should I request if I am interested in this property?

Not sure what an open records request is, never heard of it. Is that a Texas thing? You need to look for code violation liens, mortgages, judgments, or any other liens.

I'm guessing that this info bi passes the need to request under the public records or freedom of information act(s).

Suggest you get all info regarding the liens and claims, deadlines, etc. and sun info about owner that is not available thru other channels. Send a copy of your findings to the owner along with your cover letter and proposal.

In the meantime, better find out situation re: equity, mortgage owners, if any, and send same to them. Might be able to buy mortgage on the cheap unless it's a big bank like Chase et al.

Better know your numbers so you understand the opportunity, if there actually is one for your troubles.

Good luck and keep us posted.

@Wayne Brooks thanks for the advise. I don't think it's just Texas thing though. @Rick H. I think you hit the nail on the head I just want to know as much info on this property that can help make a better investment decision. Certainly don't want any surprises down the road. Thanks for your help!

If it is in Pending Demolition mode you want be able to buy it at this time only after the Demolition is done and the city will put it on the auction block and sell the land.

Joe Gore

The property is not owned by the city yet. For what ever reason they have been postponing the demolition my guess is the owner has requested multiple extensions. I have the owners name and address so I'm just trying to find as much helpful info about the house so i can make a better decision before I contact him. I guess I can also have a title company pull the title and see what I can find through them but I think you have to have a contract with that property before they can do that for you am I right? @Joe Gore Plus I'm sure there is a charge for them to do that. I'm not against spending money to gain a deal but if there is no deal I don't want to be out any $.

I just came across a similar property only it was in response to a letter I sent out in January 2014 (see those letter campaigns can work over the long haul!) and the owner inherited the property from brother. Apparently (and we're still doing the research), it's a free and clear two building (multifamily/commercial) property with all taxes paid up to date. Looking into liens and violations.

Question - if the estimated cost of City doing demo might be $30k, which is the initial asking price from seller (and now she just wants to get out of it so she doesn't owe anything to the City for Demo) - and if we can get the title simply transferred to us with no cash outlay, any thoughts as to whether it's better to do the Demo ourselves (cost approx. $10k) or have the City do the demo / razing property due historical issues like lead & asbestos hazards?

The first structure (2300 sq ft) was built in 1900 and the smaller structure (1360 sq ft) was built in 1940.

I have a very seasoned GC partner though we are both unfamiliar with local building & zoning regs. We are contemplating repurposing the property as medical/business office space since its in downtown location near City hospital. Happy to consider other creative uses for the space.

-PRJ

Originally posted by @Arturo Martinez:

The property is not owned by the city yet. For what ever reason they have been postponing the demolition my guess is the owner has requested multiple extensions. I have the owners name and address so I'm just trying to find as much helpful info about the house so i can make a better decision before I contact him. I guess I can also have a title company pull the title and see what I can find through them but I think you have to have a contract with that property before they can do that for you am I right? @Joe Gore Plus I'm sure there is a charge for them to do that. I'm not against spending money to gain a deal but if there is no deal I don't want to be out any $.

The title company can pull a prelim if you are a client or if an agent client requests it for you.  Mine are always free.  You do not need to be in contract.  IMO, the prelim is as important or more important than whatever the "open records" request is.  Buying, selling and financing real estate requires insurable title.  It's the title company's opinion of what needs to happen that matters since they are the insurance company that writes the policy. You may be able to fix a code compliance issue to the muni's satisfaction, but what if the owner is deceased? What if there is an outstanding mortgage balance 3x the value?  In my experience, title issues trump property condition. And they have trumped any dealings I have had with city and county building depts.   

I've got one in front of me right now.  Property is trashed, with code compliance liens, back taxes and a substandard designation (condemned). I have experience with all those issues and all the city/county depts. and inspectors that would be involved.  But it's moot.  The owners called me and are ready to sell (there are 4 owners on title).  But now one is deceased.  They held title as tenants in common and not as joint tenants. So that 1/4 interest now has to be probated. The person died without a will with multiple heirs.  It's a mess and likely not worth the cost or hassle to track down the heirs in order to probate that 1/4 interest on a low valued property.  My title company looked it over yesterday and confirmed that it's a mess.  

So code compliance and open records are the least of my concerns.  :)

Originally posted by @Paul Janerico:

I just came across a similar property only it was in response to a letter I sent out in January 2014 (see those letter campaigns can work over the long haul!) and the owner inherited the property from brother. Apparently (and we're still doing the research), it's a free and clear two building (multifamily/commercial) property with all taxes paid up to date. Looking into liens and violations.

Question - if the estimated cost of City doing demo might be $30k, which is the initial asking price from seller (and now she just wants to get out of it so she doesn't owe anything to the City for Demo) - and if we can get the title simply transferred to us with no cash outlay, any thoughts as to whether it's better to do the Demo ourselves (cost approx. $10k) or have the City do the demo / razing property due historical issues like lead & asbestos hazards?

The first structure (2300 sq ft) was built in 1900 and the smaller structure (1360 sq ft) was built in 1940.

I have a very seasoned GC partner though we are both unfamiliar with local building & zoning regs. We are contemplating repurposing the property as medical/business office space since its in downtown location near City hospital. Happy to consider other creative uses for the space.

-PRJ

A good and experienced demo contractor in your area is the way to go if you are able to procure the property.  The city most likely contracts out their demo anyway.  The demo contractor pulls the necessary permits and knows how to comply with all the environmental hazard concerns and disposal issues, etc.  

Just out of curiosity, is the sibling now the legal the owner of record? Or do they still need to transfer the property from the brother?

If title is good and you think you can get it for a small sum from the seller, get some demo quotes before you buy.  

Certainly a good question. My attorney had the same question and Title Report is next on the list. All City records point to the sister of the deceased as current owner but the Title Report should reveal any title insurability issues. Your response to Arturo had me making sure this point was covered. Thanks for the response.

I was leaning toward our Demo and saving a few bucks from City contractors. Again, the attorney was asking the question and as they often do, they want to unload any potential liability onto someone else (at least my great attorney does :-D ). I was looking for  affirmation from those that might have more experience than I have. The GC realm is not yet in my wheelhouse but educating myself certainly is. 

Thanks for the response K.

-PRJ 

@Arturo Martinez  You can go to the respective city government website and find the City Secretary. They handle all open record requests. You can usually do a request via email (depends on the city). I could be wrong, but why spend time trying to gather so many details before you even establish contact with the Seller to even determine if they will sell to you? While you are gathering details, someone else may already be building rapport and trust with the Seller. I would hate for you to gather all those details and find there is no seller at the other end.

Originally posted by @Daren H.:

@Arturo Martinez  You can go to the respective city government website and find the City Secretary. They handle all open record requests. You can usually do a request via email (depends on the city). I could be wrong, but why spend time trying to gather so many details before you even establish contact with the Seller to even determine if they will sell to you? While you are gathering details, someone else may already be building rapport and trust with the Seller. I would hate for you to gather all those details and find there is no seller at the other end.

I know the answer!  Because it's easier to research and gather info and fantasize about buying a property than it is to find and communicate with the seller.  I know because I've been guilty of tons of that type of "pre due-diligence".  The internet has made it even worse as you can find out everything about the seller online except their motivation. Back in the day, before internet vetting, I used to have to call everyone back without knowing anything about the property or them.  There is something to be said for working with people first and properties secondarily.  :)

K. Marie - does this mean a site like this (BP) is becoming "real estate porn?"

People must get some kind of satisfaction talking about deals that they'll never do. 

If those who are lurking on this and other real estate forums were to spend a reaction of the time that they do reading and posting here on actually talking to property owners, they'd learn so much more.  And they can learn how to get paid, too, by bird dogging.

When I started, I didn't know any better, so I subscribed to a list of defaulted property owners and drove around, knocked in doors and found people who were in trouble. Gas was expensive (I think about $.75/gallon) as these were the Carter years, around 1978. 

I made a lot of mistakes. Finally someone told me what made a deal. I learned to not spend time on time-waster marginal deals. I aggressively studied marketing despite having taught grad school marketing at one if the largest biz schools in the country. I learned how to sell.

And one if the most powerful skills has actually been the easiest...I learned how to listen to people!  It's Fascinating what people will reveal when you just let them tell you.

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