Welcome back to Curbed University! We guarantee it to be the most non-boring expert advice you have ever gotten about buying and renting a home in the Hub (not a guarantee). Additional questions as well as topic suggestions welcomed through the ever-trusty tipline.
Suppose you want to do a little due diligence before plunging into the property markets yourself. Or suppose your buddy's bought a place and you're dying to know what your buddy paid (perfectly healthy response). Or suppose you're simply voyeuristic. How do you search for the answer? You search the available property records in the Hub. It's so easy!
You'll want to start with this website: MassLandRecords.com. Through this website, you can search property records to discover things like dates of purchases and amounts paid (trades of residential and commercial property have to be recorded with the government). Your main tool will be the second pull-down menu on the top left, "Search Criteria," and its categories unfold just as you'd expect: For instance, selecting "Property Search" takes you to a page that allows you to plug in a street number and street name.
So know what you're looking for! Go ahead, try it; plug in your own address. If you need further help, the state has provided the below tutorial via YouTube (with some of the driest humor you will have encountered in a long while).
Now, the above is how to search for things like how much so-and-so paid for such-and-such and when. But how do search for what something's worth? You search property assessments (a.k.a. what local governments think properties are worth for taxation purposes). It gets a little tedious, as you will be searching through various municipalities' records, rather than through a one-stop-shop; but once you know where to search, you're golden. Here are some sites to search assessments:
· Boston's "Assessing Online" application allows you to search using names and addresses.
· Here's something similar for Cambridge.
· And for Somerville.
· And for Brookline.
You get the picture. We told you it was easy! (Seriously—imagine pre-web property searches.) You just need to know what you're looking for.
· Our Curbed University archive [Curbed Boston]