City Puts Real Estate Assessments On-Line

The City is providing an interesting new service (at least, it’s new to me) — Internet-based City Assessor’s records of real estate assessments. It used to be that you had to go to the Assessor’s office and dig through a card file, or more recently use the computer in their office. The site contains records for every parcel of land in the city, listing ownership, deed transfers, value, improvements and specifics of the structure of each home. Even if you’re not an attorney, prospective home buyer, assessor or real estate agent, it’s still fun to find out how much your neighbor’s house is worth.

11 thoughts on “City Puts Real Estate Assessments On-Line”

  1. I’m wicked impressed with the city for doing this. They didn’t reinvent the wheel, but used an existing company’s system to serve up this data, which is good. (Not my style, personally, but I’ll warrant that it saved them a lot of time and money over a homebrewed system.) Moving more of the city’s services on-line (while retaining the off-line versions, of course) is important for many reasons, but accessibility and saving money are two of the biggest ones. The city has been slow to adopt these things, and I wish that we’d been at this point by 1997 or so, but I’m very glad that we’re there now.

    I assume that Rick Fore, the city’s IT guy, deserves the credit for this, so bravo to him.

  2. I too am impressed. Though the privacy-nut part of me worries about this information being available so easily. I’ve always known it was public record, but the amount of effort required for someone to go look up my information always made it pretty unlikely that anyone would unless they had a darn good reason to.

    Of course, now I know what all my neighbor’s houses/property are valued at, and I really didn’t have any reason to look it up at all, except that I could.

    Perhaps that makes me a privacy hypocrite. At least I’m not going to snitch on one neighbor who has more home improvements than the City knows about.

  3. I know this information is publicly available, but it’s a bid odd to see online the names of every owner of a particular property for the past 20 years or more. (Although I noticed it’s not entirely accurate; in several cases I spot-checked, the earliest transaction date listed gives the name of the subsequent owner instead of the person who I know bought the house at the time. But the dates are spot-on.)

    Of course I recognize the advantages for homebuyers and those in the real estate biz. But I guess it just scares me that any wacko in the world could go online and find out how much I paid for my house or any house I’ve recently owned in the city, or get that information with my name just by typing in any Charlottesville street address. I fear this information being abused; I’d rather they go to the assessor’s office to dig!! I know there are plenty of ways to find out all kinds of private info online if you’re bent on it, but this one seems way too easy.

  4. Fascinating; I just found out my ex-husband-to-be owns a property I never knew about. What a help this will be in my divorce proceedings!

  5. Well, this means I no longer have to wait for the Wednesday’s Regress to see who bought what property and for how much. (At least in the city….) (Usually, the paper prints this information out in their real estate section. A faculty member at UVa was shocked to find this out. I hope no one tells her that the faculty salaries are available on the Cavalier Daily website….)

    When I was looking for a house, I went down to the courthouse to see how much the current owners paid on a house. One house in Belmont was being sold for $85K which was a good deal but they had paid $30K two years earlier and failed to update anything in it except the floors (furnace was on its last legs, grading caused flooding in the house). I just walked away from it; learning that no one had bothered to fix the things such as water in the basement and sitting on a $50K equity (so to speak) spoke volumes.

    As for privacy, I can see that it’s a bit scary but how many people are going to really know about the website? I am not knocking Waldo’s site or the City’s but if someone wants to know about you, they will figure out a way. Trying doing a Google search on yourself and prepared to be very scared!

    I loved seeing how much my neighbors’ houses were and I wondered why theirs were more or less than mine. I wonder if this will affect Real Estate Weekly?

  6. Really, you find information that you didn’t put up yourself with a Google search? If you’re not a subject of interest for the media, I find that surprising. I’ve used this method for years to test the information that’s out there about me; all I’ve ever come up with are book reviews I wrote years ago and one link to a long-dead page about my wedding.

    Sure, some of that information could probably be used against me (though no one has thus far threatened me because I’ve critiqued works by little-known poets). But the difference to me is, all of the information is stuff I chose to put up myself, not something a government entity posted about me. I control the risks I’m taking with the info I put out there; that’s not the case with something like this real estate assessment site (although a SE like Google might never probe the data on that level; not sure).

  7. This is the first of many records to go online.

    The phrase”public record” is a new area for us to define. One good thing is it might make closing cost a little cheaper because people won’t have to review records in person.

  8. It’s interesting that you say “there are plenty of ways to find out all kinds of _private_ info online if you’re bent on it”: the kind of info that’s now online is PUBLIC info. “Private” would be things like your favorite foods, sexual preference, how much money you make (unless you work for a public employer), where you vacation, religious persuasion, whether or not you’ve ever cheated on your spouse, etc and so on.

    What I find frightening is the increasing tendency in the U.S. to see everything as private, because that tendency just shrinks and shrinks and shrinks our already paltry sense of the public sphere.

  9. You may not have had a good reason to look up this information, but there ARE good reasons for this information to be both part of the public record AND easily accessible. For instance, what if your neighbor’s house is practically falling apart–an eyesore, uninhabited, the owner doesn’t live there and you have no idea who the owner is, the house is attracting night time visitors in the form of people who drink beer in the yard and leave their beer bottles all over the place. What if you want to contact the owner of this house and say hey–what’s up? are you ever going to fix up the broken windows and rent this place out again? or are you just going to let it deteriorate and continue to attract a bad element? With the online information, now you can look up the owner’s name and track them down.

    Or what if, as another poster in a different thread wrote (perhaps truthfully, perhaps not), you’ve got a former spouse who turns out to own a rental property that you never knew about? the former spouse has been trying to keep this information from you so that it won’t figure into the divorce settlement–but now, with the information online, you can find out the truth for yourself.

    So now we’ll have a bunch of nosy/curious people looking up the prices of every house on their street just because it’s easy to do (and I’m one of those nosy people). Big deal.

  10. If your divorce lawyer wasn’t able to find out this information already, you’ve got a pretty weak divorce lawyer. This kind of information has always been part of the public record–it’s just been really hard to get it. Now, it’s not, and the people who are goign to complain about it are probably the ones who have sneaky reasons for wanting to keep it “private.”

  11. How could this affect the Real Estate Weekly?

    Assessments are irrelevant compared to fair market value.


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