Run a Background Check on a Home

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Purchasing a home is often the biggest financial investment your customers will make, so opting to have a “background check” conducted on a property before deciding to buy is becoming more commonplace.

Databases and companies have been surfacing in recent months that set out to give buyers a full picture of a home’s history or area around it.

For example, the Realtors Property Resource, which started rolling out in 2010, is an online real estate library–only available to National Association of REALTOR® members–that provides in-depth property information of nearly every property in the country. It includes public record information, prior transactions, notice of default, foreclosure data, flood plain maps, demographics, zoning restrictions, liens, permits, school district information, and more. You can use the information to create custom reports to distribute to your clients so they can make informed decisions about a property.

Another home-background check company, BuildFax, compiles reports for real estate professionals, appraisers, and customers that can even show you the age of the home’s roof, plumbing, electrical, air conditioning, and heating systems. It also provides details about the home’s remodel or repair history, as well as the dates and scopes of projects done and even the contractors who did the work. The reports also can help sellers prepare accurate disclosures for the property prior to listing it for-sale.

The company charges about $40 per analysis, but it’s offering a free report to consumers through Aug. 31, in case you want to test it out.

Also, be sure to check out this month’s Architecture Coach column at REALTOR® Magazine online, Promoting a Home With a Past Life, about how sometimes uncovering a home’s back story can actually even become a selling point.

Melissa Tracey

Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine, writing about home & design trends, technology, and sales and marketing. She manages the magazine's award-winning Styled, Staged & Sold blog.

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  1. Excellent information. Especially today, when much of our sales are bank owned where the seller (bank) do not disclose anything to the buyer. For my clients, when the seller is a bank, I call my insurance agent and ask him to run a CLUE report. This is very helpful to know if the house had any serious insurance claims in the past.

  2. Tried a BuildFax on a Windham County Connecticut home and fould that they have only 18% coverage in this state. Did not have our property. Looks like they are in a “development ” mode. They certainly can’t charge a fee if they don’t have the data.

    I wish them luck. Good Idea.

  3. Encourage your local board to get into this system. Great Idea for my Buyers.

  4. emily

    I did such things so I’d like to share this with you. I did many background checks on homes and the most effective way to do them is to ask the neighbors about the history of a home because they know it in detail….and they can tell you if the people that lived there were taking care of it or not….and I can assure you that such details can’t be found using another method.

  5. I tryed to sign into realtors property resource, and could not find nevada. what now.

  6. could not sign in to nevada.

  7. All very good! The disclosure is surely a selling point!

  8. This will do a lot in minimizing surprises later on.

  9. The repair history will help in determining related problems.