buying property in NYC
June 16, 2009 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Looking in a "neglected" area of NYC for property to buy. My question is how to get information; on owners, and issues like back taxes owed, or even, now especially, foreclosures. The Dept. of Finance has block-by block data, but it is very time-consuming, and obviously does not include current data.

How could someone comb through a neighborhood for up-to-date data?
How do realtors or developers do their research?
posted by ebesan to Work & Money (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Realtors and developers do research?

I'm being facetious. Larger companies contract with private data collection firms - companies which can actually send out people to... oh, I dunno... count the number of cars that pass through an intersection, comb through filings at city hall... in effect, generate as close to a "real time" information about a parcel as possible. This is one such company that I know of - a friend worked for them for a few years and I got a glimpse of their data collection techniques.

You, as a private individual, will not have access to this very expensive information.

There are other indicators you can look for. For instance, even though developers make educated guesses about what is "up and coming" the actual process of re-zoning and getting permits takes time and is often a public process. Dig though city council records and see where the developers are going. I don't know if NYC has TIFs (I'm sure they have something similar) but here in Chicago they are often a good indicator of areas of town where developers are licking their chops and sharpening their knives. The gist is that you buy nearby you can ride the coat tails of development.

Generally I feel that there are alternatives to this type of gambit which require a more "street-level" sense of things mixed with a knowledge of geography and history. NYC is a unique animal, but here in Chicago you can pick out the gentrifying areas (and thus the areas which are still a "deal") just by looking at a map and cross referencing that with crime data. Areas with high crime (ghetto areas) which are close to the central business district are a no brainier for those looking to buy in. The crime, litter, loitering teens in hoodies, drive down property values in the short term, but in the long term the brutal reality of geography guarantees value.

So, in answer to your question, "No." There is no time-saving alternative that is not cost prohibitive. Otherwise smarter and richer people than you or I would have already bought up most of the planet - as it is that's pretty close to the reality anyway.

Research takes time.
posted by wfrgms at 10:52 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

You could try looking up addresses in StreetEasy. In the interest of full disclosure, I used to work there. StreetEasy connects you with the NYC DOB / ACRIS database and others which have records on sales, building inspections, building permits, etc. You can access most if not all of this information for free, but as you have already found, it's rather time-consuming. This, of course, is StreetEasy's selling point. I think it's $10/month and you can cancel once you've found the info you need.

Here's a link to ACRIS: Online City Register

FYI, you'll have to find the BBL (Borough, Block and Lot) for any given address before looking up its records. Once you've clicked to begin using ACRIS, you can find the BBL by doing a Find Addresses And Parcels search on the address.

I'd recommend you give StreetEasy a try, though. They're nice people and do try their best to get the relevant info to their users, even without me working there :)

Good luck!

(no, StreetEasy is not paying me to recommend them!)
posted by jacquilinala at 11:17 AM on June 16, 2009

Probably not a ton faster (but free and public) the Department of Buildings website lets you search for an address and then review info for the entire block.
posted by qldaddy at 11:18 AM on June 16, 2009

They have everything. Pretty much.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:36 AM on June 16, 2009

Residential or commercial? CoStar is the big name in commercial real estate data.
posted by mullacc at 11:48 AM on June 16, 2009

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