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How to Use ATL/GA Public Records For Juicy Real-Estate Info

This just in: The Internet is useful! Particularly when it comes to digging up dirt about real estate (pun intended). Whether you're hankering to know a property's appraised value, a neighbor's renovation permit amount, or just have too much time on your hands, public online records can be oh-so-revealing.

Mortgage foreclosures may be researched by going on the website of a county's legal organ newspaper. The Georgia Press Association has a handy listing of just such organs. Searching for mortgage foreclosures under the "Public Notices" section will most likely bring up an item or two — this being Georgia, after all — composed of a slew of legalese. Buried in the jumble is the person in default, the amount that's being defaulted, the address of the property, and when the foreclosure sale is scheduled to take place. If you're the type who buys property on courthouse steps, this is your guide.

The website of the county tax assessor doesn't sound like a fun place, and for the most part it's not. But its searchable database holds some frequently tantalizing tidbits! An assessor is tasked with determining the fair market value of all real property in a given county, and as you may have read, the results of such appraisals have been up for discussion recently.

Fulton County makes the research pretty simple, giving users the ability to find info by address, parcel number, owner, etc. Once you've honed in on a particular property, you're able to deduce a building's age, owner, zoning class, and sales history dating back (in some cases) a couple of decades. You'll notice an appraisal value and an assessed value; the assessed value is simply a percentage of the appraisal and serves as the number that's taxed.

Wouldn't it be great if there was a one-stop shop for searching permits, planning cases and code complaints? It's like the City of Atlanta read our minds! The Citizen Gateway page packages all these records into an easily searchable database. The permitting section dishes on what the neighbor's doing next door, and in some cases what the previous owner did seven years ago. Getting even snoopier, it'll also tell you how much the construction cost, an inspection history, and where the project sits in the review process. The planning page reveals similar dirt but deals more with zoning and special events; unfortunately its records only go back to 2009. Over in the code enforcement area you can research just how long that house down the street has been a stand-in for "Grey Gardens."

— By Curbed contributor Jonathan Carnright