...looking stuff up in the public records.
In comments just below, I discussed how Tall Son and I were checking out local criminal records last night.
Then, because one of my neighbors told me yesterday that he was probably going to sell, I decided to look at his property records.
Which led me to looking at the records of all my neighbors on this 7-house cul-de-sac. Upon reflection, I don't think anything I learned surprised me.
You know about me and Neighbor Guy. On the corner next to Neighbor Guy, the couple, who have been there since 1997, have only their original mortgage and a second, signed the same day, to the county, for $5000 with 0% interest. Must have been one of those incentive programs we hear about now and again.
On the other corner, Lawnmower Man and his wife have refinanced several times, but always modest amounts. I think they did it the first time to finance their addition, but after that, it's always been for about $50,000. I think they've just been shopping interest rates. Who knows?
Then, oh dear, the neighbor who says he'd like to move. He and his wife also have refinanced a number of times, each time pulling out more equity so that their most recent mortgage is nearly $120,000. In this modest neighborhood and knowing the condition of their house, I suspect that's over its value. And I suspect they used a subprime lender.
Next to them are the people directly across from me, and their story is also quite similar. They've only been with us for five years and have refi'd three times. Again, I suspect that if they're not over value, they're kissing it with that last mortgage. This time I'm almost certain their loan is subprime: it's with Countrywide.
Finally, my neighbors to the left quietly paid off their only mortgage two years ago, right on time at 30 years old. And that's it for them.
While I was busy on the court records, I found a link to the property appraiser's office. Like the court's, the appraiser's website is far more fun and useful than it used to be. I can literally check out the whole neighborhood by clicking on each lot on a plat map. The map is color-coded: if the house sold in 08, 07, or 06, the lot has a corresponding color. If the last sale was older, it's white. Very few houses have turned over in my neighborhood in the past three years. I suspect that's because the neighborhood is modest, but also reasonably well-kept. In the old market, who could afford to move out? And what would have been the incentive?
In the last election cycle, "we" the voters approved a real-estate tax "relief" measure. The good news is that according to the appraiser's office, my taxable value is now only $34,000.00. Except, because the county is having desperate trouble making ends meet, that's really also the bad news. But what do I know? I'm a tax-and-spend liberal.