A new website lets you mine real-estate data in real time. We ran its first test drive.
NYMag.com, By S.Jhoanna Robledo, Sep 10, 2010
How's the market doing?" is a question that is harder to answer than it seems. A broker with unattended open houses may be bearish; a seller fielding offers the same day is brimming with optimism. Limited viewpoints, small sample sizes, old saws, and dated information often lead to misconceptions.
Noah Rosenblatt-the broker behind the popular UrbanDigs blog-is looking to change that. At its relaunch, scheduled for this week, UrbanDigs.com will be devoted to data analysis, allowing users, for $20 per month, to track market shifts by neighborhood and price in real time, create trend charts, and chat about what they're seeing. You can (to give a simple example) keep a daily watch on the inventory of listings in your area, and compare the trend with previous years or other parts of the city. If you spot a sharp change, you can adjust your price or schedule an open house immediately. You can break down data in dozens of other ways, too. Instead of waiting for quarterly reports from the brokerages, you can generate up-to-the-minute ones. It's definitely for the hard-core numbers geek, and its data-heavy approach may intimidate the casual shopper. If, however, you are the sort of person who builds spreadsheets to track your retirement portfolio, you are likely to fall for this site, especially if you use it along with a more listings-driven service like StreetEasy.com. It gives any buyer the tools to become a real-estate quant.
A test search showed a post-Labor Day spike of new listings-93, as of last Wednesday-and a small bump in contracts signed. "Manhattan is segmented. It's not one market," Rosenblatt says. "I wanted users to be able to see what was going on in their submarkets." The system is linked to the city deeds registry and the database agents use. Data are scrubbed to get rid of duplicate and obsolete listings. (Cleverly, Rosenblatt sorts apartments not by bedroom count but by bathroom count, because nobody can fudge that number.)