While real estate web sites give the most important information about homes for potential buyers in the area, there are many other free, easy to use web sites that give additional information about properties. Before I inspect houses in the Twin Cities for potential buyers, I typically do a little research on the property so I can pay special attention to certain areas. Here are a few of my favorite web sites - if you love looking at properties online, or maybe just snooping on your neighbors, bookmark these sites.
- Minneapolis One Stop - Minneapolis properties have the most detailed property information available. You can view Minneapolis Truth in Housing reports performed after 2/26/07, and any open repair items. If you're buying a foreclosure in Minneapolis, this is a great way to find out what repair items you'll be responsible for! Permit history is available for properties going back about 20 years - at the permit page, clicking the blue "i" will give you detailed permit information. You can also use this site to look up taxes, owner information, rental and business licenses, and more.
- Saint Paul Property Info - This is a great site for property information on Saint Paul homes, but not as detailed as Minneapolis. This site is not quite as easy to use, but you can use it to look up permit history, Saint Paul Truth in Housing history, rental and animal license history (have pets lived at this house?), and citizen complaint information about properties, among many other things.
- Plymouth My Property Information - For properties in Plymouth, you can view permit details, appraisal history, owner information, and even a photo of the front of the home.
- Hennepin County Property Information Search - Great information on Hennepin County properties. This site gives owner information, information on the last sale of a property, and decent aerial photos (click on "View Map", and then on the right, click on "2) Click For Oblique Aerials"). I frequently use this feature if I can't find a photo of a home I'm going to inspect and I want to know if I need to bring my extension ladder to get on the roof.
*One word of caution for this site - this information is not as reliable as information given by specific cities. I recently inspected a home that was listed by the Realtor and by Hennepin County as a tri-plex, but it had been illegally converted, and would not qualify for a rental license. The City of Minneapolis had the property listed as a duplex, and I was told that Hennepin County just publishes the information they're given - their information is not verified.
- Anoka County, Carver County, Dakota County, Ramsey County, Scott County, and Washington County - Similar information to Hennepin County.
- Zillow - Gives a surprising amount of information about properties whether they're listed for sale or not. This gives property estimates for all of the properties in neighborhoods, which is somewhat accurate. The web site claims to be within 20% of the sale price of 68% of homes sold in the Minneapolis/ Saint Paul area. This site also gives sale history, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, aerial photos, and Google Street Views when available. Try looking up your own home to see how accurate it is (or isn't).
Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections