Database Quickies: Property Records

Part of a series  on databases that add value to a daily story.

A well-known person in our area, under federal investigation, suddenly put his house up for sale.  It became a page 1 story in the local paper, with details about the house. The story included the house layout, the number of rooms, and the home’s value.  The reporter may have gotten all this from an online real estate listing, but did you know a lot of this information, and sometimes more,  is available through online property records provided by municipal governments?

The county in which I live puts all the property tax records online for easy perusing. I can find out the number of rooms, the home’s assessment, the taxes required (and whether they’ve been paid), and even comparables  in the same area.  I can trace the ownership and see how much each owner paid for the home.

Reporters can use  property records to confirm ownership of a home, find an address when they need to send a photographer to get photos/video of it, or go themselves for  an evening home interview with someone who has been ducking them.

Many cities and counties have property tax records online. Check at your county’s website or call the local property tax office.  You can pay several online services for records, but before you do, see BRB Publications. It has the  best general directory I’ve found to find free public records by state.  BRB, Tempe, Ariz.,  publishes books and online sites  for locating public records.

Leave a comment below if you know of other master sites for free property records or tell us ways you’ve used property records in a story.

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