Home Buying Due Diligence: Online Property Research Tools for City and County Property Records

Search City and County Records Before Buying a Home

Home Buying Due Diligence - Online Property Search

The King County Parcel Viewer is one of many Online Property Research Tools for City and County Property Records accessible online.

So you’ve found a property that you’re interested in buying or maybe you’ve already got it under contract and you’re looking for all the information you can find to help you understand what kind of house or condo purchase you’re dealing with. There are numerous online home buying tools you can use to conduct due diligence. Here are some I use all the time.

Please take note that although these websites are run by the City of Seattle, Bellevue (and others – see below), or by King, Pierce or Snohomish County, each provides only unofficial, uncertified information. The providers make no guarantee about how well the information is indexed. In my experience the information tends to be reliable, but I know better than to assume that any particular property search I do delivers perfect results. Certified copies of the documents are often available from the relevant government agency by mail or in person. The title company handling your real estate transaction can also be a good resource for getting public records related to the property you’re buying.

County Resources – Online Property Records Search

King County Property Records Search: Online Parcel Viewer

Use the King County Online Parcel Viewer to search for homes by address or parcel number. Click on the “Get Property Report” link in the lower left column and bask in the county assessor’s info on file. Unfortunately, this info is not updated with tremendous frequency so it can contain inaccurate info. For instance, a new addition completed in the past ten years may or may not show up so the square footage may be inaccurate. The number of beds, baths, or fireplaces are also not always accurate. Nonetheless, it can reveal useful information such as that the property once had oil heat. If it does but you know it has natural gas heat today then you know to make sure they had the old oil tank decommissioned or removed.

King County Public Records Online Search

Use the King County Public Records Online Search site to see what shows up on the property. Search by tax parcel number and then consider other searches to cross-reference what you find because the indexing of documents done on this county records website is not always perfect. Other searches might be by last and first name of each current or previous owner. Look for name changes as well.

King County Building Permits – Online Records Search

If the house is outside of city limits then it’s probably in unincorporated King County and the county building department King County Building Permits Records Search is where you want to look for info on building permits, construction code and other code violations, etc.

Here are links to similar Snohomish County online property search resources:

Here are links to Pierce County online property search resources:

City Resources – City of Seattle Property Records Search

The City of Seattle has its own building permit and complaint website. Another useful tool is the Side Sewer Cards & Maps online search site which allows you to search by address and find city records on a given property’s sewer lines.

Eastside Cities Resources – Property Records Search

Many Eastside cities share a building permit website including Bellevue, Bothell, Mercer Island, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kirkland, and Woodinville. It can be a bit onerous to use but it’s much better than nothing.

Posted by Marc Holmes

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Residential Real Estate Lawyer Marc HolmesMarc Holmes is an attorney in Seattle with a practice focused on residential real estate. In 2009 he merged his life-long passion for real estate with his law practice to create WaLaw Realty. WaLaw is a new and unique model that combines legal representation with the services of a real estate agent while charging much less than a traditional agent. Marc blogs when he has a chance.

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