Real estate investors searching Auction.com listings can now easily dig up crime levels, environmental hazards, natural disaster risk and other dirt on properties.
The foreclosure marketplace has equipped its listings with property reports from Home Disclosure, marking the latest push by a real estate search site to offer penetrating insight into homes.
But the exclusion of certain sensitive data from the reports suggests that the company thinks there are still some rocks better left unturned.
“Auction.com is leading the way in providing this type of unprecedented transparency, and we believe the response from consumers on the Auction.com website demonstrates consumers are hungry for this type of information,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president of ATTOM Data Solutions, the operator of Home Disclosure.
Auction.com, which lets investors bid on foreclosed properties in online auctions, is operated by Ten-X. Ten-X also oversees Ten-X Homes, a new marketplace for non-distressed properties.
The Home Disclosure reports available on Auction.com feature a wide array of property and neighborhood characteristics — everything from nearby “registered polluters” and drug labs to airport noise level and wildfire risk.
Not all the the data is icky, however.
A home’s estimated equity, foreclosure status, sales and tax history, loan information and past building permits appear on the reports as well. Users can also view local school quality, hospitals, libraries and unemployment rates.
Auction.com’s integration of the reports highlights a common balancing act for property search sites: providing transparency without alienating certain constituencies (e.g., real estate agents and homeowners) and testing fair housing laws.
At Auction.com’s request, the reports were customized to exclude some of the most sensitive data that usually appear in Home Disclosure reports: local sex offenders and demographic data. (The standard version of Home Disclosure reports can be purchased for $9 a pop on homedisclosure.com.)
“Attom is easily able to customize the home disclosure reports provided in bulk to our enterprise clients to meet the specific needs of those clients,” Blomquist said.
“For instance, we would anticipate that other listing portals also would want to exclude the demographic information to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act.”
Even Home Disclosure might have decided that some information isn’t worth uncovering. The service advertised “Death in Home” data in the fall of 2016, but has since wiped the information from its reports. (Blomquist said he doesn’t know the reason why.)
The potential to tarnish neighborhoods — and perhaps even violate fair housing laws — by mixing sensitive data into listings has recently received some media attention. That has probably not gone unnoticed by real estate sites.
Zillow Group and realtor.com recently wiped traffic-light colors from school ratings, following negative coverage of the practice.