Everyone in real estate knows that public records are not error free.  Some more than others claim this happens too often. We won’t go into that debate. What’s undeniable, however, is the growing need for ways to validate data found in public records and to quickly determine whether the information provided is true or false. This post will tell you about those ways and walk you through the process of verifying property data.

What’s the REAL Most Expensive Home in Staten Island?

Here’s a real-life example. We were contacted by a journalist at The Real Deal, who was writing a piece about a mansion in Staten Island which was put on the market for $3.95 million. She wanted to know whether this might set a new record for the borough if the sale closes at the aforementioned price tag.

We analyzed our historical sales in Staten Island and discovered that the current record is held by a property on High Point Road which was sold for $3.9 million in 2007. At least according to our data. We sent the result and to our surprise we were emailed back and asked why we’ve missed not one but three homes which apparently sold for much more. The transactions appeared in ACRIS so everyone suspected it must have been a mistake at our end.

How to check whether a property’s sale price is true or not?

Let’s take a close look at one of them: 23 Pitney Avenue, Staten Island, NY, 10309. According to ACRIS the home was sold for a mind-blowing $4,500,000 in November 2011. According to our data it was sold for ten times less. How can you tell who was right?

1. Check the property market value
The property’s market value as determined by the City was $450,000. Yes, we know the City is sometimes way off the mark with its estimates, but not ten times!

2. Check prices in the neighborhood
You generally find similarly priced homes in a neighborhood. If you find a home that’s priced at a few millions while every other home in the neighborhood is priced at a few hundred thousands then there’s something wrong there. At least in most cases. To go back to our particular case, homes in the neighborhood sold at between $140,000 and $619,000.

3. Check the listing history
If a home closed for $4.5 million then it must have been listed for a similar price. In this case, our historical listing data shows the property was listed for $474,000 in June 2011.

4. Check the title history
Everything from mortgage data to past sales is included here. Mortgage amounts are usually, though not always, close to the paid amounts. A past sale is also a good indicator of how much the property is currently worth. Exceptions to this rule are recently built homes. The past transaction might have been for the vacant lot on which the property was built, and not for the built structure. Check the year built information to verify this detail.

Who was right?

So let’s recap. Prices in the neighborhood are in the range of a few hundred thousands, the property was listed for $474,000, the City assessed value is $450,000, and the owner took a $360,000 mortgage. We’re pretty  sure the $450,000 sale price found on PropertyShark is the right one.

Needless to say the other two properties, at 120 Darnell Lane, Staten Island NY 10309 and 33 Alter Avenue, Staten Island NY 10304, followed the same pattern. You can check for yourselves by going through the same process.


Roxana Baiceanu

Roxana Baiceanu

Roxana is an associate editor with Multi-Housing News and Commercial Property Executive. In the past, she also created content for PropertyShark and Point2Homes’ blog pages. She also has 5 years of experience as a marketing copywriter.

Leave a Reply