Mark wrote in with a question about Homes Sales Data
Hey, Geordie –
Here’s a question I’ve been wondering for a while. This might also be something that many other of your customers wonder about, so might be a good blog article topic, unless this is a big can of worms (or just a plain silly question).
Here’s the question: Why is home sales data in Washington not easily and readily available to the every day consumer?
Over 4 years ago, we moved to Washington from Los Angeles County. In L.A., prior home sales data was available to the public. You can find some information at the LA County Assessor’s site here - http://assessor.lacounty.gov/extranet/DataMaps/Pais.aspx, and even better information from the LA Times home sales prices here - http://www.latimes.com/classified/realestate/transactions/la-re-dq-intro,0,6689802.htmlstory. Granted, this information is not completely thorough, nor completely current (the most recent sales data I could find in the LA Times search on our old neighborhood was 7 months old).
Still, I wonder why home sales information like this isn’t readily available to anybody here in WA state? If it were, would it really reduce people’s reliance on real estate professionals? I have to doubt it. Just having this information easily accessible is not going to be a primary factor on whether or not somebody is going to go the FSBO route.
In our case, having purchased a vacation home in Chelan county, we would simply like to keep informed on sales prices of comparable homes in our neighborhood and surrounding area. As you know, there is currently a home on the market in Ponderosa that was built by our same builder, is roughly the same size, floor plan, etc. as ours, and it is currently on the market for a selling price that is higher than what we paid for our place a year ago. I’m very curious to know what the final sales price is when it sells, but as far as I can tell, there is no publicly available information in Chelan county (or King County, for that matter), where I can find this out.
Thanks as always for your insight.
Quick follow up … my wife reminded me that this information is publicly available in King County, from the county assessors web site (after doing some mildly confusing searches on a specific address or parcel number). Still don’t know of a broader database search in King county, but you can get targeted home sales info on the assessor’s property tax site.
This is a great question. I think the simple answer is that it takes staff and resources ($) for local governments to digitize information. Whether this is zoning maps, Assessor's sales information, or recorded septic site designs, we have had a challenge with getting local governments to make the leap into the digital age.
Douglas County , which is the home of East Wenatchee and just across the Columbia River from Wenatchee, has been able to post their sales info for easy use for a number of years now.
Chelan County has created a decent mapping product. This is open to the public and has all kinds of data. This includes zoning, steep slopes, flood zones, and ... if you know how to use it... sales data. I will warn you that the sales data is incomplete and the program is pretty awkward.
If you really want to know what a home sells for there are two easy ways to find out - call me. If I can get that data, I'm happy to share it. OR call the Chelan County Assessor. (509) 667-6365.
Once it has recorded, the sales price is public knowledge. Recent sales are also listed in the Wenatchee World newspaper and in the Wenatchee Business Journal, though I don't expect either to have the data online.
On the private side there is Zillow. Zillow uses algorithms to take public sales data to create Zestimates about what your house is worth on any given day. There has been much talk about this on the blogosphere over the years and most end with warnings about the inaccuracy of an estimate that isn't based on a real person coming and looking at your house. Anyhow, Zillow works pretty well in places like King County, but not in our neck of the woods. To this day there are no Zestimates for Douglas or Chelan Counties, only Houses For Sale listed by real estate agents and For Sale By Owners. (You will also notice the Make Me Move price which is an interesting idea. Much better than a sign in the yard from a seller not really interested in selling.) Zillow of course, is waiting for good data from the counties, without the data, they can't do much either.