Are you house-hunting in Silicon Valley? If so, you may be viewing homes which were last sold just a few years ago. This is especially true among distressed properties which were purchased, renovated and now are being flipped (foreclosures, REOs, short sales). Most sales are reported on the multiple listing service, so it’s easy for your agent to find this information for you. If there’s nothing on the MLS, a quick look at the county records online will reveal the last sale date.
Why does it matter if the home sold just a couple of years ago? Because it may be possible, when you are buying such a property, to request the old inspections and disclosures. If the current sellers are using the same agent who helped them to buy the home (which is also learnable from the MLS), he or she should have a copy of the old file. State law requires that brokers keep transaction records for 3 years. Sellers and agents tend to keep them for longer, though. (When agents change brokerages, though, sometimes it’s harder to get ahold of old files.)
So back to your Silicon Valley real estate issue. You’ve located a home that you would like to buy, and there has been some recent remodeling done, “permits unknown”. By requesting the old inspections, reports, and disclosures, you may learn the true status of that repair work. Perhaps the current owner doesn’t remember, and doesn’t think to look at the old paperwork, but by going through it yourself, you may gain a clearer understanding of the nature of those improvements. Or you may find out that an addition or remodel was done without permits.
Knowledge is power, and by requesting the information on a home where it was sold in recent history, you gain some of each.