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How to Use Public Records for Real Estate Research

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If you're planning to buy a house, it's a good idea to gather as much information about it as you can. For example, how much did the present owner pay for it? Who is the present owner? When did they buy it? One way to do that is to search public records.

Probably the best way to get as much information as possible is to go to the county clerk's office in Riverhead. Everything you could need is there.

Wait, can't you do this over the Internet? Fine, lazybones. To look up information on a property, you need its 19-digit tax map ID number. You can call the assessor's office in the town where the property is located to get this number or you can try searching online.

Here are the links to the Southampton and East Hampton Town Assessors' lists.
· Southampton Assessment Roll
· East Hampton Assessment Roll

Once you've got those lists, you can search for the address and you'll find a strange long number.

Next, go to the county clerk's site, click Searches, and then Deeds. The first 19 digits are what you want to enter for the tax map ID.
· Suffolk County Clerk Online Records

Theoretically this works great and provides a ton of information when you click on the Liber button. I got a runtime error every time I tried, however.

(What's a Liber? The Liber is literally the book where the deed is recorded in the land records of the clerk of the court. The Folio is the page. Quaint, huh?)

Isn't there some paid service you can use that will make this easier? Of course! This is America, after all! Property Shark and HomeInfoMax are two services that will give you information on the property, including most recent sale date and price, tax assessment, and owner. Zillow will also give you a good amount of information for free, and if you're working with a real estate agent, they should be able to access that information as well. Happy digging!