Research your home's permit history: Consumer Website of the Week

July 06, 2011|By Liz F. Kay

I have a lot of bad habits, including doing entirely too much research on minor purchases ($50 and below) and not enough on major ones --- you know, the kind that come with front and back yards that you hope to live in for years to come.

But that's why I'm sharing this offer of a free BuildFax report, which assembles public information about permits that have been issued into one document for users.

You can get one of these reports for your home for free through July 31, after which the price returns to $39.99.

The site has nearly 100 percent data for sellable properties in Central Maryland counties such as Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel and the city of Baltimore.

Some of the readers on other sites point out in comments that information on permits is not necessarily an indication that the work is done well ... but if you know a bathroom or kitchen has been remodeled without permits, you might question what other corners have been cut.

Of course, this information is available to anyone who stops by the planning department of their municipality --- a good move to make before purchasing a home. You can also check permit histories for city properties via the permit database on the Baltimore Housing department website.

You can use Baltimore Housing's site not only to find work that was done on your own properties but also to see if permits have been issued for construction at other addresses in your neighborhood.

If you're buying soon, I'd definitely recommend checking the zoning maps to see what's allowed to be constructed on any vacant lots near your home. It's better to know before your monthly mortgage payment kicks in whether a commercial property such as a convenience store or gas station can be constructed there.

And, let's not forget about the Maryland Sex Offender Registry Search --- better to get to know whether any of your neighbors have a history before you move in.

What other research did you do --- or wish you had done --- before you bought a property? Please share in the comments below.

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