Snooping to Find the Value of Someone Else’s Home

August 9, 2007 at 1:30 PM 13 comments

My husband and I purchased our primary residence in August of 2001. My husband, (then boyfriend), and I purchased the house together, five days after my 24th birthday. It was a defining moment in our lives. There is nothing better than painting the walls, and moving the furniture, and realizing that one day you will own this house. The feeling was so incredible that we bought a second home in 2005.

My husband and I purchased our home just before the housing boom took over the nation. In 2001, we paid $260,000. At the time I told everyone I knew just how much we paid. I was young and excited, but more importantly proud that my boyfriend and I were able to purchase a home of our own. (Even though we only paid 12% of the home’s value at closing.) I noticed in return that no one ever mentioned how much they paid for their home. When a few coworkers moved the cost of their new home was never mentioned. In fact, my grandmother was the only one who discussed the price she paid and that was because the number sounded so ridiculously low in comparison to today’s prices. A few years later, when the housing market skyrocketed, people began to discuss the estimated value of their homes, but still the purchase price was never offered in conversation. It seems home prices are as taboo as salaries.

I mentioned this phenomenon to my mom the other day and she told me something that had never occurred to me. She told me her coworkers search the SDAT, (State Department of Assessments and Taxation), records to find out just how much people paid for their homes. Whenever they meet someone new they visit the Maryland SDAT site, type in the address of their new found friend, and discover the price they paid for their home. When I told her that seemed like an odd thing to do, she mentioned that she knows other people, outside of work, who do this too.

Is this a matter of keeping up with Joneses? You can’t know if you’re comparable to the Joneses unless you know what they paid for their home? Are people assuming other factors about you from the price you paid? For example, do you think the price of one’s home is indicative of the salary they earn? It seems a bit like snooping to me. I’m not certain I like the idea of searching through state records to get the scoop on the finances of my friends and family.

If you know people who do this or do this yourself please leave a comment on my blog. (You can comment anonymously.) I would love to hear what pleasure or value you receive in knowing the price someone else paid for their home.

Entry filed under: thoughts. Tags: .

Is Your Lifestyle Preventing You From Saving? Would You Do This… To Save Money?

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Anonymous  |  August 9, 2007 at 8:58 PM

    1. Because I want to know what other homes in my neighborhood are selling for and/or valued at. This allows me to keep track of what my house is possibly valued at.

    2. Because I’m nosy. :)

    Reply
  • 2. Anonymous  |  August 9, 2007 at 11:27 PM

    Actually, when I first discovered your blog, you had a link to your beach house up. I looked up the address in online property records, and I was able to find the names of you and your husband. Then of course I googled you to see what else was out there. It was nothing sinister. I was just surprised a blogger had put up a link to something that could easily reveal their identity. The average citizen doesn’t realize how much of their “private” info is out on the Internet these days.

    Reply
  • 3. beth  |  August 10, 2007 at 2:57 AM

    I don’t own a home, and I’d find something like that like snooping through the medicine cabinet when using a friend’s bathroom. I’d really like to, but that’s a total invasion of privacy, and I don’t want anyone to look through mine.

    One of my friends works for a major bank in the loan department. Every once in a while she’ll mention she processed the loan of a famous person, but never divulges information (like salary, location, etc.). If she says anything, it will be some weird feature of the house. Frankly, that’s all I want to know. Too much knowledge is a bad thing.

    Reply
  • 4. One Frugal Girl  |  August 11, 2007 at 12:39 AM

    To the second anonymous commenter: Truth be told I was torn by free advertising for my beach house and someone finding out my identity. In the beginning rental income far outweighed the risk of being identified by someone I know. I’m actually not worried about strangers knowing who I am. But as I began to blog more I worried that someone would stumble across my blog and reveal my identity to my friends and family.

    With that decision, and the knowledge of the SDAT records, (which my husband queries for our homeowners association), the beach house link went off the blog!

    I sooooo appreciate your honesty! I hadn’t expected that as a response to this post!

    Reply
  • 5. Anonymous  |  August 13, 2007 at 5:09 PM

    I live in an area where starter homes start at $500k. We’re a young family and almost all of our friends have already bought homes, but we still can’t afford to buy even though we’re making well above the median for the area.

    I looked up how much all of them paid and when they bought their homes, being curious how they can afford it and we can’t. The answer was simple. We’re very young to have a kid (mid 20’s), while all our friends are in their early 30’s. They all bought just before the boom, so even though we’re all probably earning similar salaries in excess of $100k, they’re living in a house while we’re renting a shack. Tough luck. We’ll keep renting for a couple years and buy later.

    Reply
  • 6. One Frugal Girl  |  August 14, 2007 at 2:11 AM

    So in this case you see that your friends bought their houses when the market was low, as my husband and I did, but what if you saw that a friend paid a lot of money for his or her house? It doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about their finances. Maybe a relative left them a large inheritance or their parents gave them money for a large down payment. I don’t think the value of one’s home can always be an indicator of one’s salary or overall net worth.

    Reply
  • 7. GeckoGirl  |  August 14, 2007 at 3:58 PM

    I’m similar to the first commenter. I’ve looked to see what homes in my neighborhood sold for but also because I’m nosy.

    Reply
  • 8. Tim  |  August 20, 2007 at 8:21 PM

    What a second… the appraisal value does not mean they paid that much for the house or land. It does affect (if their state has it) property tax and insurance.

    Reply
  • 9. Amy  |  August 21, 2007 at 12:08 AM

    I’m a big fan of Zillow, which has the last sale info along with the # of bedrooms and bathrooms and aerial photos. I was going to post on my blog a while back about how to stalk someone (Zillow, local GIS, register of deeds, etc.) because I’m curious how much I can find.

    ZIllow has not just the purchase price, but an estimate of the current market value. Does not cover all of the US, and tends to be off, the site is still in testing while they get the computational models right. Still, I’m a nosy gal!

    Oh, and yes: I did tell anyone who asked (and maybe a few who didn’t) exactly what we paid for our house.

    Reply
  • 10. the baglady  |  August 21, 2007 at 4:33 AM

    Yup, snooping is actually now very easy to do with sites like zillow.com or real-estate.nextag.com. You can look up almost every house in the nation and get either the exact price your neighbors paid or at least the taxes they paid so you can estimate the current value!

    Reply
  • 11. One Frugal Girl  |  August 21, 2007 at 2:00 PM

    I think there is a big difference between looking up the values of homes in your neighborhood and snooping to find the home values of friends and family.

    It’s helpful to know the value of homes in your neighborhood in case you plan to get a home equity loan or line of credit or if you are thinking of selling your home in the future.

    On the other hand looking up the values of your friend’s homes just seems nosy.

    Reply
  • 12. brent  |  August 23, 2007 at 12:33 PM

    interesting.

    i wonder if there’s anything like this in australia.

    I thought that america was the land of Privacy.

    Reply
  • 13. Baby Joe  |  November 2, 2010 at 6:00 AM

    Sometimes people tend not to tell the truth about the price of their home, especially if it is newly bought. I have a neighbor who never told me for how much she bought her home no matter how many times I asked. She always avoided my questions.

    Reply

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