Home Price Check. How complete?

My wife and I are currently househunting. As we look at places, I like to get an idea as to what the place sold for in the past. Not that I think it really makes a difference in current negotiations, but just out of my own curiosity.

There is a website that contains a database of home price listings from 1987 to the present. It is hosted by and can be found here. There are several other sites that seem to access this same database.

I’m curious how complete the database is. There is one house, for example, that shows as having last been sold in 1993 for $52,000. Now, of course, the house is going for quite a bit more. I’m just curious if any of the RE-Dopers have any experience with this database and can comment on its completeness and reliability and know of any other sources for on-line home purchase price lookups?

Zev Steinhardt

I’m not in real estate now, but used to be. Checking the site, they seem to refer to “MLS”. This stands for “Multiple Listing Service”. When a home sells, the sale price and date sold, should be reported to the Service. Not all homes that are listed with Brokers are put on this Service, so it isn’t necessarily complete. It also won’t show homes sold directly to buyer by the seller(For Sale By Owner). It is only as accurate as the information relayed to it(usually accurate).

There is another way to get a good idea of a home’s previous selling price, although I don’t know that it will work in NY. Here in CA(and many other states) “stamps” must be purchased and affixed to the “deed” when it is recorded at the “County Recorder’s Office”. The stamps cost a certain amount per $1,000 of sale price. Divide the dollar amount of the stamps by the cost per stamp and multiply by $1,000 and this should give a good idea of the price. I don’t know if you can do this on the internet(depends on the County?) or if you have to go to the County Recorder’s Office to find out.

Are you using a RE Agent or Broker right now? They can find out for you.
Hope this helps.

“There is one house, for example, that shows as having last been sold in 1993 for $52,000.”

Maybe two relatives just did a deal betwixt themselves, it’s pretty common & results in low prices.

I don’t know about NY, but in Mass., deeds are available online. Maybe also in NY?

This website looks pretty comprehensive. It’s based on county land records, which is as comprehensive as it gets. Multi-list services only contain sales brokered by multi-list members, which (as has already been mentioned) excludes a fair number of sales.

The disadvantage of county records is that you won’t know all of the terms of the sale (such as who paid what commissions, or if the two parties were related in some way), which means the price on the deed may not be the “fair cash equivalent” price. Of course, doesn’t appear to have many details either…

Here’s a handy website with links to online county assessor databases across the nation. It’s not completely up-to-date (I know Cleveland County, Oklahoma is online because I used it today) but it’s a good starting point.

Lemme know if you’ve got any questions using that USPDR website, I research property sales for a living and some of the terminology can be confusing if you’re not in the business.