Streeteasy.com integrates DOB data

Site looks to make permits, complaints more transparent
By Candace Taylor and Zachary Kussin | May 10, 2012 11:30AM

The real estate website Streeteasy.com today launched expanded features, including data from the city’s Department of Buildings. Streeteasy.com, launched in 2006 for brokers and homebuyers, has long linked property listings with recorded sales from the city’s online Automated City Register Information System, known as ACRIS. Now, the site has added data from the buildings department, including construction permits and complaints, as well as mortgage documents and other additional information from ACRIS filings.

Using these documents, site visitors can now track a property whether or not it’s currently on the market, explained Sofia Song, vice president of research at Streeteasy.

“We wanted to continue to make real estate even more transparent,” she said. Another new feature on Streeteasy is that users can now search for apartments by whether or not tax abatements are in place, and for how long.

Streeteasy.com revolutionized the world of Manhattan residential real estate by “scraping” the Web for real estate listings and posting them, allowing users for the first time to access and search nearly all of the city’s listings for free. The site also made closed sales data easily accessible to its users. A basic account is free and an “insider account” is $10 per month or $100 a year. Basic users will see the document and units tabs but won’t be able to see details.

Now, the company wants to provide a similar leap in transparency for buildings department data, Song said, by integrating it into Streeteasy.com, which now receives weekly data feeds from the DOB.

The current buildings department website is difficult to maneuver and “visually bureaucratic,” Song said. By integrating that information into Streeteasy.com, “we’ve made is so much more navigable.”

Users can sign up to receive alerts from Streeteasy.com when new ACRIS or DOB documents appear on the site.

Noah Rosenblatt, founder of the Manhattan real estate analytics and consulting website UrbanDigs, said the added convenience of the new features is a positive thing for the industry.

“More transparency is a good thing,” he wrote in an email. “It’s always nice to have one place be able to easily connect to changing information related to the source content, which in this case is New York City real estate.”

Matthew Daimler, founder of Buyfolio, an online communication and organization tool for brokers and home seekers, said it’s great to have more access to information. “I’m excited about that,” he said. He noted, however, that some ACRIS and buildings department information is difficult to interpret.

“It still is really challenging to get inside that information to understand what it means for the property,” Daimler said. And while the DOB makes basic information about renovations available, it doesn’t provide details on what work was done and how much the homeowner spent. “Those details are not made visible in the DOB filings,” he said.

ACRIS filings, meanwhile, can be confusing to the layperson when homeowners take out multiple mortgages or refinance their homes.

For that reason, Rosenblatt noted that “easy access to DOB building data/violations, etc., is more useful to the attorney than to the actual purchaser, as that information becomes more critical during the due diligence process.”

But Song noted that the new features can help homebuyers track goings-on in their building even after they make a purchase.

“People’s real estate obsession does not stop at the closing table,” she said. “We’re helping them monitor and protect their investment.”

Since January, Streeteasy.com has grown to 18 employees from 11 at 895 Broadway, she said.