How to Find Out Who Built Your House

Maybe you’re puzzling over the floor plan, researching the source of a structural issue, or investigating the resale value when the question pops into your head: who built this house? Here are some ways to find out.

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The truth about home ownership is that you’re constantly learning your home’s secrets. Maybe you’re puzzling over the floor plan, researching the source of a structural issue, or investigating the resale value when the question pops into your head: who built this house? Start your long and treacherous or short and simple quest with these tactics for how to find out who built your house.

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If you choose to build your own home some day, here are some tips to help you find the right contractor.

  • Take a trip to your county recorder’s office. (They maintain public records and documents relating to real estate ownership, among other things.) Typically, they hold the proverbial keys to all building permits that contain architect, contractor, and often subcontractor, information. This should be the first step for homeowners with a home built in the last few decades (and many more in some cases) because it’s nearly certain that they’ll have the information you seek. Some cities have this information available online, so save yourself a trip by checking for digital records first.
  • Conduct a sticker search. Look for subcontractors’ service stickers on furnaces, air conditioners, water softeners and the like. If you can find the subcontractor, give them a call to see if they know who built the house. Keep your house operating smoothly by doing these 14 things every month.
  • Head to the library. If your house was built way back, you may need to scour old resources held at the library. All libraries are going to be different but some may have a long history of permit indexes, land surveys, and other helpful info. Or, try looking at newspapers from around the time your house was built to find local news on developments and buildings. (You should be able to find the year the house was built on the title or abstract.) If all else fails in your library search, ask for help from a research librarian who can usually point you in the right direction when asked how to find just about anything.
  • Check out your state’s historical society, museums, or history center. History enthusiasts have been collecting all kinds of information about local land, properties, and architecture for decades. Start by going to their website, conducting a little research yourself, and then give them a call or pay them a visit to get to the bottom of your search. You may be surprised by the wealth of data they have.
  • Call your real estate agent. If you recently bought your house, ask your real estate agent to try to find the information. They may have access to details that you don’t have.
  • Talk to your neighbors. Folks who’ve been in the area for decades usually know lots of history about the neighborhood. Chat up the friendly faces next door to see if you can find the answers you seek. Keep learning how to be a better homeowner by reading this list of 125 things all homeowners should know.
  • Meet previous owners. Examine your abstract of title, visit the tax assessor’s office, or head back to the county recorder’s office to try to get your hands on the registry of residents for your house. With all the tools out there to find folks, you can try hunting down past owners to see if they have knowledge of the owners from whom they purchased the home.

Keep in mind that if you live in an older home, there’s a high probability that the builder is no longer around. That will complicate your search, but don’t give up!

Save yourself from future house hassles by doing these 16 things annually.

Hannah Louise
I help people tell stories, whether that's about themselves, their company, or their product. Every project I take on has one priority: make sure the audience connects with the content. I've fine-tuned this skill over the past decade by creating content for audiences from C-suites to new hires in organizations large and small. I launched my career as a generational keynote speaker (think dispelling myths about Millennials/Xers/Boomers) and worked my way to being a principal of a consulting firm and published author by writing, presenting, and editing books, blogs, white papers, and research analysis. I bring my values of collaboration, humility, and research-driven strategies to everything I do. I'm also a cat owner, coffee enthusiast, and new home owner (you know, your stereotypical Millennial traits.)