Personal Finance 

Do You Stalk Property Tax Records?

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stalkingLibby wrote a guest post on PT Money titled Stalking Property Tax Records in which she said that “If we’ve ever met in real life – and even if we haven’t – and I know your name, address, or both, I’m going to look up your home’s tax records online.” She learned about it after her realtor suggested she look up local property values to get a better sense of what the homes were worth. She continued doing this after buying her house and would look up the tax records of her new boss, new coworkers, etc. She went on to talk about the awkward social situations she put herself in by having “too much” information.

Our society is very sensitive to many of these money issues. We don’t like to talk about our net worth, our salaries, how much we paid for our house, and a litany of other money issues. What’s funny is that if we did talk about it more often, we’d probably be better off. If you and a co-worker discussed salaries, you’d be put in a stronger position with your employer (one reason why employers don’t like unions). If you talked to your future prospective neighbors about the value of their home, you might not overpay for the house. But discussing money is one of the many social morays.

That said, do you stalk property tax records? Do you use that opportunity to take a peek into someone else’s finances? When we visit open houses, and I’m interested at all in the home, I always look up the real property tax records. When I meet someone, I don’t think to look up their home because I don’t really care. I don’t really want to know how much people earn or what their new car cost (to be honest, I don’t know anything about cars… I separate them into three buckets – affordable cars, nicer cars, and “not sure why that’s worth so much” cars) because it doesn’t affect me, just like knowing the price of someone’s house doesn’t affect me.

I feel like I may be in the minority though because I can appreciate the fun in financial voyeurism. There’s a reason why The Real Housewives of Whatever is popular – you get a peek into the lives of the rich and famous. Cribs was popular for the same reason. I love Shark Tank because it’s all the fun parts of raising money for a business, mass market edition, without any of the annoying parts.

Do you stalk property tax records?

{ 14 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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14 Responses to “Do You Stalk Property Tax Records?”

  1. tom says:

    Haha, I’ve done this. First, I was just looking at sales prices of homes I was interested in buying. Then I was curious and started looking up people I know, just to see what their home was purchased for… you know, as a reference…

  2. cubiclegeoff says:

    I have looked at home sales records for only two people I know. One mostly because I’m curious how anyone can afford some of these ridiculous prices (and try to figure out how I can’t when I make decent money…obviously not decent enough). One because the person kept on asking my wife all the time why she wouldn’t stop working to care for our first born. I’ve probably also looked up info on neighbors houses, only to see where my property stands in relation to my own.

  3. Martha says:

    I had a neighbor come up to me when I first moved into our house who knew the name of my boyfriend. It was very creepy and to this day we still reference him (who long ago moved away) as “Creepy Carl.”

  4. sheri says:

    Oh yes, I do! LOL! Just checking to see if I’m in line with others. This year I’m fighting my tax increase. Three homes on my block with comperable or larger square footage, etc sold in 2012. My property taxes are higher than theirs so I need the comps for reference.

  5. Property taxes are just the icing on the cake, there is a lot more information available in public records. Search on Google or Bing your county clerks office “XXXX county clerks office” and you will find deeds, mortgages, trusts, notary licenses, judgements and many other things are all online.

    When you take out a mortgage you pay a recording fee, those fees are what is charged for the county clerk to record your mortgage documents in the files. The title search fees go to title agents who research those records and verify the seller is the true owner, that there are no outstanding liens or judgements against the property.

    All of this information is public record and is available to anyone who wants to see it. Way back when before the internet you had to go to the county clerks office and physically search the records. Now for huge cost savings all of these records are stored digitally and can be viewed for free online. To get official printed copies has a fee which is needed in title searches, but if you need an unofficial copy you can print those for free with a big watermark indicating it is not official.

    As much as you might think it is snooping if you look up your coworkers and neighbors etc, remember this is the official record of ownership, without this you would never be able to prove you own your house or paid off your mortgage, it is very important that this information is freely available, even if it winds up creating a “property tax stalkers”

  6. NateUVM says:

    I checked out those on my street right after we moved in. At first, it struck me how everyone had different rates (cost/sq.foot). But then, it was also easy to figure out that it was a direct result of the size of everyone’s lots (smaller lots => higher tax rate). It was also neat to see how much things like my garage were valued, tax wise, and comparing that to my neighbors. Having never owned my own place before, I had no idea how any of that worked. Outside of this comparative analysis, probably not going to do any more “stalking”, though.

  7. Glenn Lasher says:

    Wow! I had no idea that was available on-line, though I did know it was a public record.

  8. freeby50 says:

    I don’t know why people would use property tax records. What do I care what their property tax bill is? If they’re using it to find the property value then you can just throw an address into Zillow and get last sale price and current estimated market value. Property tax database systems are different county to county all across the nation and often the property tax values don’t really relate to market value.

    I will look up stuff like this and I honestly see nothing wrong with it. Public record is public record.

  9. Jim M says:

    Busted – this is one of my guilty pleasures.

  10. Scott says:

    I stalk our competitors’ business information online. For example, are they properly registered with the state, city, etc. If they’re not, then we keep that in our back pocket to nail them later for tax evasion should they make a stupid enough move that negatively impacts our own business.

    I think looking up property tax records is useful when buying a home or disputing tax appraisals. Otherwise, it’s just for entertainment.

  11. Joe says:

    Funny, I’ve actually used this and other government information quite a bit to find people. It’s actually come in very handy to find old friends and classmates.

  12. Sadie says:

    Another plus is it helps to verify and/or justify that appraisal you just paid for and wonder why???

  13. bloodbath says:

    LOL – Yes, I do. I too began when I purchased a home and now I do it for just about any reason.
    I met a guy who bragged about his wealth and looked him up and discovered he owed over 10k in property taxes and later the house went into foreclosure!

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