Saturday, November 17, 2007

Snooping public records to find property information

Have a cook county address (and that’s all you have) and want to know all about it? Who owns it? What did they pay for it? How leveraged are they? What other properties does that guy own?

Well there are several pay Internet sites where you can go to do some research and get what you want. But you don’t want to pay someone for the info? Well, with a little computer “leg work” you can find it all on your own for free. Ok, maybe you can’t get all of it. But you can get much of it - as long as those bits of information have been recorded in the public records. You can also make some educated guesses based on what you find. All in the public domain.

Easy as 1-2-3.

For example: Let’s say you are in the market to buy a three flat. One day while driving down Oakdale Street you see one that appears to be vacant. You could call your agent if there was a “for Sale” sign on it. But there isn’t. You peek in the windows (without getting arrested) and now you’re really intrigued because you see potential. You want to find out who owns it. Maybe see it. And maybe, just maybe, make an offer on it. You at least want find out what’s going on with the property.

So let’s go:

Step 1: Get the address. 838 W. George – check.

Step 2: Go to Cook County Assessors website and search by the address to find the PIN. While you are there take note of the past few years assessed valuations. And just as important - the property description of how many units.

Here is what you come up with:

Step 3: Go to the Cook County Recorders Website. This is a goldmine of information about a property’s history, and the parties involved.

Entering the PIN number you found at the Assessor’s website into the PIN number search we find – D’oh! The property sold on June 28th. How do I know this? A deed was recorded on July 3rd.

Click on the hyperlink to the recording document of the warranty and we can see that it was conveyed on 6/28 with a sales price of $865,000 from Martin O’Brien as trustee to James Varga. Keep clicking on hyperlinks on document numbers and names and you can view reams of information that has been recorded against the property.

Click on the mortgage and you can see that Mr. Varga bought the property with $792,000 loan. He probably paid the balance in cash. Hey, 92% financing in this day and age – not bad.

What else has Mr. Varga bought and sold?

Click on his name and you’ll see that he has over the years been the grantor 13 times and the grantee 10 times.

Click on Grantor and you see various transactions of sales and mortgages. You see that not only has Mr. Varga bought and mortgaged the property we were curious about in June of 2007, in October 2006 he took out a mortgage of $338,500 on a property.

With PIN provided for that transaction, you head back to the Assessor’s website and look up the address and find that it is a condo at 828 Wolfram.

If you really want to creep yourself out about what people can find out about you – keep digging: Go to the Cook County Treasure’s website and you can see that his condo us Unit A. You can plainly see that Mr.Varga is getting the homeowner’s exemption and his current tax bill of $2,223.38 is not paid yet.

What about the original property that we were curious about? Well, he hasn’t paid those taxes either. And he’s getting a killer break on the taxes with a homeowners’ exemption, a senior citizen exemption and a senior tax freeze. Yikes, he’s gonna get whacked next year when all those tax breaks vanish into thin air…

Anyway I digress - a great set of free tools to help you learn more about a property. And perhaps make an informed buying decision. Use these three websites and their cross referencing information and amaze yourself with how much information you can dig up.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I knew about the Recorder of Deeds Web site but didn't know how to find a property address from the PIN. Now I do! Thanks again.