Mike Ela, a past president of DataQuick, a real estate information service based in La Jolla, Calif., has returned to Southern California to launch a real estate information company with a consumer focus.
After a three-year stint as president at C&S Marketing (now CoreLogic), a Northern California company that offers risk assessment, property valuation and fraud prevention tools for the mortgage industry, Ela is serving as president for HomeSmartReports.com, based in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
“Our focus is consumer education,” said Ela, who has worked in the real estate industry for 26 years. The company, which launched six months ago, offers a HomeSmart Value Report, which is available nationwide and provides homeowners with an estimated property value based on an analysis of area sales activity. This valuation report costs $24.95.
A sample report at the Web site shows median, average, high and low sales prices for the area, as well as market strength, the market foreclosure rate, appreciation rate, and the “paired sale count,” which is a measure of how many times a property sold within a three-year period.
The HomeSmart Value Report also contains information on nearby sales; a sales history, sale price and loan amount (if available) for the entered address; the assessed value of the property and tax amount, along with basic property details such as square footage and number of bedrooms, bathrooms and total rooms.
The company also offers a HomeSmart Report for prospective home buyers, which costs $6.95 and provides similar information on area risks, foreclosure activity, sales volume, price fluctuation and other factors that indicate market risk around a specific property of interest.
Visitors to the site can also use a free routing tool, which allows users to enter up to six addresses that they wish to visit. The site then computes the quickest driving route to see all of these properties, and provides driving directions and map images for each address.
The site is intended to offer consumers “basic tools that will help them understand the market they’re in whether it’s a specific property value or trying to understand and analyze the neighborhoods in which they’re considering the home purchase or sale,” he said.
“One of the bothersome things for me is that consumers are the primary principals in any real estate transaction and generally they are not given enough information to help them in their decision process. Our fundamental goal is to give them a lot of information on varying topics about real estate.”
The site provides brief descriptions of various real estate processes, including information on buying or selling a home, real estate investing, the “housing bubble,” property flipping and real estate risks, among other topics.
Also, HomeSmartReports has plans to issue regular public reports on risk levels for new mortgages nationwide. A Jan. 16 report, focused on mortgage default risk in California, showed that statewide mortgage-default risk levels increased about 29 percent from the first half of 2005 to the second half of 2005, with the highest risk in rural Central Valley communities.
There are many real estate Web sites that offer consumers the promise of a home valuation for free, Ela noted, though he said there are typically strings attached. For example, some Web sites seek to capture information about prospective real estate buyers and sellers and sell that information to other companies or use the information to try to sell real estate services or give listing presentations to those consumers.
Ela said reports generated at HomeSmartReports offer more comprehensive analysis than typical free reports, looking beyond comparable sales and dissecting aspects of each transaction. The reports incorporate statistics on a neighborhood scale, too.
While real estate professionals may find value in the reports that his company offers, Ela said the intent is really to open up more information to consumers. “In the end I think that real estate professionals think that their value is in controlling data, where in my opinion their value is helping consumers negotiate the best deal in a transaction. I think the sooner they realize that the better because they’ll be more forthcoming with information.”
He added, “The way you keep a real estate economy fueled is to keep a transaction process going and the way that happens is to share information.”
Ela said he is planning to offer subscriptions to site users who plan to use the site frequently. Real estate professionals who download reports at the site are free to share that information with their clients, he said.
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