Peeping Tom: Ogling Your Neighbor's Property Price

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How much did your home cost? Your neighbors know and millions of strangers can find out.

The source: Online real estate marketplaces.

"As soon as a house comes on the market in my neighborhood, or surrounding streets, I check the price," said Sandy DeMaioNewton, a homeowner who has placed her 4-bedroom colonial home in Northborough, Mass., on the market.

But, "I am concerned about online searching, not so much because of neighbors, but because of creepy people who would want to see all of our stuff and then maybe come and rob us," she continued.

Since placing her home on the market, DeMaioNewton says, "I do get a sense that the neighbors are judging the price [of our home], but I can't get a handle on whether they think it's too low, because the market has been so bad people just think we're plain crazy to try and sell right now."

Real-estate voyeurism, or online snooping, is growing increasingly popular as more homeowners and real estate gawkers utilize websites to discover how much a neighbor, co-worker, or stranger shelled out for a home.

In July, Zillow.com, a real estate database of more than 100 million U.S. homes, had more than 23 million unique users.

The days of searching town or county records have been replaced with Web searches that exchange privacy for free information.

It's a capability that one homeowner is not a fan of.

"You can type an address or name online and the results disclose how much you paid for the house, which is not cool. I don't like how all your home buying information shows up," says Terrence Hollingsworth, a homeowner in affluent Loudoun County, Va.

The ability to access home prices on the Web can cause "people to think you have money when you don't," says Hollingsworth.

How worrisome should all this easily-accessible information be?

"I understand why people are nervous about the process but it's information that is public record. Now that we have internet access it's easy to find," said Leslie Doyle, a real estate blogger and an agent at Hallmark's Sotheby International.

"I think it's totally fine if people want to know the value of a house, or go to an open house to see what the house sells for, but it crosses the line if they start looking into the personal information of the seller," said Doyle.

Reasons to Know

Nosy neighbors and real estate gawkers aren't the only individuals poking around the web looking at the value of your home. The curious homeowner or potential seller may also keep tabs on the neighborhood.

"I'm using [online searches] for a serious purpose," one New Jersey homeowner told ABCNews. "I need to find out what the homes in the neighborhood are selling for. I have to keep a watch on that."

"If my situation goes downhill and I have to sell, I need to know exactly what's going on in the market. I'm out of work and I'm worried about having to sell."

Tools to Research Your Property Value Online:

Zillow.com

Trulia.com

Cyberhomes.com

Eppraisal.com

Realestateabc.com

Realtor.com

Sikku.com

Homegain.com

Public Record Finder

Mike Massay, a corporate communications consultant and Westchester County condominium owner, does an occasional online search on home prices to gauge the price of the units in the building. But, nothing unusual for the typical homeowner.

When dealing with a condo unit, Massay says, it's important to keep tabs on the amount of units up for sale.

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