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Unzipping investment properties

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SmartZip, a Web site that offers rating and research tools for real estate investors, including color-coded investment heat maps, launches today. The company offers automated scores for individual properties on a scale of 1 to 100 for "growth" and "income" and also scores cities, metro areas and counties. At launch, has data and ratings for about 12 million properties in California and Florida, with plans to expand nationwide. The growth score is geared toward those who are seeking above-average appreciation "and are willing to tolerate higher risk in ... price volatility over time," according to SmartZip's Web site, while the income score is for those who "prefer a steady stream of monthly cash flow and ... want to minimize volatility in cash flow and total return." The site's ratings are based on a range of information including housing, demographic, economic and lifestyle data -- including past trends and future projec...