Learn how you can find all there is to know about your home’s (or home-to-be’s) past!
There could be many reasons why you’d want to know the history of your house (or house to be)…
And your motive could be either genuine need or simple human curiosity.
If you own your home and have a curious mind, you’d probably want to know what your house was like decades ago and what families lived there over the years since it was built…
Otherwise, you might have a genuine need to dig into the history because you’re about to purchase the property.
If you fall in any of the two categories, this article is definitely for you!
Make good use of this guide and discover how to get your home’s history – the easy way.
It’s so exciting, isn’t it?
So, let’s begin…
Dig into the MLS
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is a treasure trove of information about any home sold in your country…
So there are plenty of reasons why you should look here first!
For starters, you can find all kinds of info, including old photos of the home, previous owner names, and addresses, sometimes even phone numbers, and confidential agent notes!
You can also get an idea of the price the home has been sold for in the past.
And if you do your research correctly, you might even get lucky and find out what caused the previous owners to sell their home!
Just remember, the MLS is exclusively for real estate agents, so you’ll want to get in touch with one to give you access…
But once you’re in, grab a cuppa and get your pen and paper ready!
No Agent? Try these Two Alternatives to the MLS:
Access a public MLS database
There are between 700–800 MLSs in the United States, and a few of the larger ones allow you to browse their listings online, even if you don’t have a real estate agent!
Since the site and other similar sites obtain their data from the MLS, listings should be accurate and up to date.
However, public MLS databases don’t include all the information that agents can access…
Some confidential info will be for your agent’s eyes only, like
- confidential agent notes
- contact information
- staging instructions
Look through the Property’s Listings
If you don’t want to go through an agent (like if you already own your home and want to research just out of curiosity), listings are a great alternative to the MLS!
According to a recent survey, about 84% of the buyers looking for a property’s history find the online listing descriptions “very useful.”
How can you do it? Easy…
- Type your property’s address into Google (or the browser of your choice), and
- Done! You’ll get a list of all the property’s internet listings.
Listings will give you some interesting info, like when the home was built and what major renovations have been done since then.
But keep in mind, they will provide only limited information…
So if you’re looking to dig deeper, we recommend getting yourself access to the MLS.
Use Public Property Records
Wait, you mean that property records are freely available to everyone?
Yes! They’re public information.
To get started, check to see whether your city or county’s public records are accessible online using the Public Records Online Directory which is free to use.
Once you have your hands on the public records, a heap of useful (and useless) data will open up to you, data like:
- Tax history
- Owners’ history
- Property deeds
- Litigation history
- Architectural type
- Class of property, and… much more!
The only drawback? These records will be more difficult to navigate if your city or county doesn’t keep their records online…
If that’s the case, you’ll probably have to drive to the City Hall, regional tax office, or wherever they store the archives in your locality and sift through piles of paper to find the data that you need.
View the National Registry of Historic Places
If the property you’re interested in is an older historic home, you might be able to find its history through the National Register of History Places.
Or if your house is not on their list, another very similar resource is the State Historic Preservation Office.
Usually, if your house is historic, its history must be recorded within one of those two databases.
Try them, and see what you can find…
Learn about the Owners through Census Records
This one is a great source if you’re like a Sherlock Holmes kind of person. 🕵️♂️
Because through the census records you can access the information related to the previous owners.
You can find out a lot of unbelievable information, like who lived in your house before you, how many children they had, their names, birthplaces, marital status… anything that goes into a census record.
But the older the record, the slimmer the chances of enough information, particularly in the US.
You know why?
Because most of the oldest census records got destroyed in a fire in 1921 in the Commerce Department Building!
Have a Chat with the Neighbors
That’s right, sometimes nothing beats striking up a chat with a neighbor and asking them about the history of the property and the people in the neighborhood.
If they’ve been living there for a long time (and they’ve been nosy enough) who could tell you better about the house than they can?
It’s true that, yeah, they can’t give you the official version, obviously.
It’s just in most humans’ (or neighbors’) nature to blow things out of proportion and tell you cooked-up stories.
You’ll be amazed at what you can find out, but take it with a grain of salt… especially if they tell you that the house is haunted.
Ask a Local Real Estate Agent
This is an especially good route if you want to save yourself a lot of time and hassle.
This can be a really useful and effective source, but it’s most likely NOT free!
Not only can a local real estate agent tell you all about a property, but they can even help you compare the home to other options in your area, and advise you whether you should buy the home (or sell it when the time comes)…
But you’re going to have to dish out some cash first!
No… That’s Not All!
The above six sources are the best ones to take you back to the roots of your house, but they are not the only ones.
Depending on your house’s age and your state’s history you can find tons of additional sources…
Like the old historical maps of your state or city, books and magazines related to your area, police records, fire records, and so on…
So, don’t give up. Keep digging. Something amazing will come out of it!
But before any research can start, you need to find an amazing property first, right?
And what better place to get started than AQRE Home’s growing list of properties across Canada and the United States!
See our newest homes on the Properties Page, and feel free to send a message to the owner if something catches your eye!