One of the cities in my area has a wonderful online service in which you can find out the current taxes,
utility bills (water and sewer) and also check to see if there are any permits that have been pulled for
repairs or renovations.
In the case of vacant homes (foreclosures, REO's, etc.) there is also one more check that you as a purchaser
need to do: Pick up the phone and call the city and find out if a certificate of occupancy is needed prior
to moving in to the home and if an inspection is needed by the building department.
A buyer client and I are in the middle of a "counter offer" purchase on a bank owned home, and one of the
things that I asked her to do was to call the city building department and find out if this home needed to
have an inspection prior to her being able to move in to it. As it turns out, this home was red-tagged (although the tag was not readily visible when we viewed the home) and does need to be inspected by the building department.
It will cost the buyer $200 for the city building inspector to come out and look at the home, as well as additional fees if permits need to be pulled for any city mandated repairs. Most small repairs can be done by the potential home owner, but those needing more expensive work (electrical, plumbing, heating & cooling, etc) will require additional inspections and permits.
Please don't assume that just because there isn't a notation on a city / township online service about an inspection being required that this is truthful. Data does "fall through the cracks" and entries are sometimes not made in a timely fashion.
Pick up the phone and call.
For those wondering why I don't make the call myself for my buyer clients: Third party translations can sometimes fall short of accuracy. I want my buyer clients to hear for themselves what the city / township building department has to say. They can also ask specific questions while they are talking to the representative while those questions are fresh in their minds.
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