Thinking of buying or selling a home? There’s a wealth of information online showing you every detail of a house. Doing your research will help you get a better deal no matter which side of the bargaining table you’re on.
Zillow is one the most popular sites to list a home. The company’s “Zestimate” is based on various factors, including square footage, bedroom/bathroom count, tax assessments, days on the market and other homes in the area. Obviously, you want this number to be as high as possible if you’re selling. Tap or click here for five ways to raise your home’s Zestimate.
If you’re in an area with a hot housing market, you probably have received calls with messages along the lines of, “Are you interested in selling your house for cash?” Whether or not this is the case, you can ignore these types of calls. But spammers and crooks are now using resources to get more information on you and your home.
Anyone can check a county’s assessor site to find information on properties. These are government-run sites that use information from assessors to estimate the value of real property within a county, city, town or village.
Assessors are knowledgeable about the local area and their methods for determining values change with time. A property can be reassessed as needed to keep the information up to date. You can contact your local assessor if you have any concerns or questions. Go to mcassessor.maricopa.gov to check out Maricopa County’s assessment site as an example.
Not all assessor sites provide the same information, but they make for a great starting point for anyone who wants to find out more about your property. This information will not usually be used for nefarious gains, but it certainly can be. If a scammer calls, they will use the information they have collected to convince you they are legitimate.
Here is some of the information that is easily accessible to anyone.
1. When you bought your home and how much you paid
A county assessor’s site search can reveal who owns a property and how much they paid for it. The payment history for all owners can easily be found, along with taxes paid or owed. The full cash value (FCV) and limited property value (LPV) indicate what the property is currently worth.
Is there a lien on the house or is it fully paid? You’ll find that and more here. Tap or click here for one way to get a legitimate offer for your home.
2. Who you purchased your home with
An assessor’s site can provide the real estate company and/or realtor who you worked with when buying your home. The name and address of the bank or other creditor that issued the mortgage is also available. Tap or click here for information on how hackers are spoofing banks to scam you.
3. Property size and layout
Square footage is important when assessing a property and planning rooms, but this information can also help potential burglars. The type of house also gives away the layout, and some sites even include sketches or diagrams showing entry and exit points.
4. Your signature
Property records, deeds and other documents containing your personal signature can be found on assessor sites. They can be screenshotted or downloaded, putting your signature in anyone’s hands to use as they see fit.
Our own Kim Komando’s real legal signature is available online because of a deed. This is opposed to the one she uses to sign letters to readers and such. Tap or click here to find out how to sign any document digitally.
5. Other properties you own
As if all of the above information isn’t enough for bad actors to use against you, there is more. Once your personal information is found, it’s just another step to determine what other properties you own. All the information is now available again: when you got it, how much you paid, the size and layout and your signature.