Where can I find the best real estate data?
May 1, 2008 12:00 PM   Subscribe

I want some serious, hardcore real estate data so that I can analyze what's really happening with the market in my area. Obviously, realtors have access to this local data, but the general public has no way to get at it. Does anyone know of any workarounds or resources that make this info available to the general public?

Obviously, I don't want the personal information of homeowners, but I do want very specific information on properties. I'd like to be able to see how long a house has been on the market (especially if it's on its second or third listing renewal). I'd like previous sale prices, recent nearby purchase prices, etc. over certain periods, etc. I just want all the raw data.

Every realtor I talk to says things are going fantastic, and yet the national real estate market (overall) is practically in freefall. I think this is borderline fraud on the part of realtors, considering they've got a near monopoly on the statistical data.

Note: Madison, Wisconsin is a super strong real estate market due to the University of WI and the State Government among other things. This drives me even more crazy because local realtors basically claim our market is unstoppable, even though I know it's slowly receding.
posted by BirdD0g to Work & Money (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Second Zillow. I'm not sure if they have all of the exact data you need, but they have a lot of data available through their Open API.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:12 PM on May 1, 2008

Basic property info is public domain, AFAIK. You said you're in Madison - a quick Google search says http://www.ci.madison.wi.us/assessor/ is a good place to look. You can sort by "zone" or something like that, if you know what zones your area breaks down to, or by streets/parcels/etc.

My parents are real estate appraisers and they use this public domain info all the time. It's a little bit creepy that so much stuff is available in the public domain, but I think it's law.
posted by harperpitt at 12:13 PM on May 1, 2008

I think some of the information you want is not released to anyone because even a realtor's competitors could use that information against them. If Realtor A hasn't sold the house after ten months, Realtor B would like to know that so they could convince the owner that Realtor A doesn't know what they are doing and to drop them. You should be able to use the assessor's data to make educated guesses. Supplement that info with a few area visits to count realty signs over time so you can observe trends.

No market is unstoppable. The market was built to the level it was primarily on investors out to make a quick buck rather than people looking for homes. Central Madison should be a transient population that would rent rather than buy. Workers dependent on the government can dwindle due to budget cuts or consolidation. The State government is hurting with the state of the economy so there will be some belt tightening.
posted by JJ86 at 1:02 PM on May 1, 2008

What you want is access to the MLS.

I don't know how a nonrealtor can get that unless you are married to one.
posted by konolia at 1:35 PM on May 1, 2008

Years ago (dot.com bubble v1), Yahoo's real estate site published free historical individual home sales data (going perhaps a decade back). I would love to see a source like that again.
posted by zippy at 1:48 PM on May 1, 2008

In most cities if you search hard enough there is a realtor who is giving away much of this information. Like other people have said, Zillow and Trulia are both good sources. I personally like Trulia better for the kind of information you are trying to get because it scours local realtor listings and aggregates them onto a Google map. Zillow will show recent sales data, but it won't show current market data.

As konolia said the best data comes from the local MLS service. However, most local realtor groups publish a monthly newsletter that has extensive sales data. This newsletter shows all of the current market trends. Like I said above, if you do enough searching you will usually find a realtor who puts the newsletter up on his/her website.

Also, if I remember correctly Madison has a strong For Sale By Owner market. So the MLS data might not be perfect.
posted by bove at 1:57 PM on May 1, 2008

In Chicago, St. Louis and South Florida, BlockShopper.com makes all kinds of data like this publicly and freely available. Dunno about Madison, though.
posted by limeonaire at 2:22 PM on May 1, 2008

If Realtor A hasn't sold the house after ten months, Realtor B would like to know that so they could convince the owner that Realtor A doesn't know what they are doing and to drop them.

This may vary from state to state, but here in Missouri it is against the law to knowingly solicit someone currently under an agreement with another real estate agent. There are exceptions: If the owner makes first contact, or if it is a mass mailing that has a disclaimer about it is not intended for owners already listed with a real estate agent.

As to your original question, that is the heart of the real estate business. They generally guard that information very closely, and Multiple Listing Services explicitly forbid giving access to non-members. And we real estate agents are notorious for "the market always looking up" one way or the other because there's not much business in telling people it isn't a good time to buy or sell a house. Your best bet is to find a buyer's agent who will give you as much raw data as you can get.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:56 PM on May 1, 2008

ZipRealty is my go-to site for listings. They link back into zillow for valuations.

They're probably not doing biz where you are, alas.
posted by tachikaze at 6:59 PM on May 1, 2008

You could try foreclosures.com, and track the # over time.
posted by niloticus at 12:30 AM on May 7, 2008

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