A new website is making real estate information more accessible for anyone interested in residential and commercial property in Edmonton.
Honest Door provides a property’s last sale price, the number of times it’s been sold, its current assessed value, as well as any zoning or permitting details. It also includes more traditional data, including the year the property was built and its square footage.
Before the website launched in early June, anyone interested in tracking down all of these details would have to put in quite a lot of time and effort.
“It would be very hard,” founder Dan Belostotsky said. “We’re the first site to have done it across the country that’s not a real estate brokerage.
“You’d have to go to an appraiser or you’d have to go to a real estate agent or you’d have to know some business contacts who know something about real estate or subscribe to certain news channels. It would be very difficult to find very specific information about a house, so we’ve kind of just put it all together.”
Belostotsky started investing in real estate years ago and quickly discovered it was challenging for a regular member of the public to access information about properties.
“It is publicly accessible, it’s just very hard, very time consuming. And, if you work all day, you’re not going to take hours out of your day to find it,” he explained.
“A small percentage of the people have it and a lot of people don’t, so we’ve just made it easier, so everybody can have it at their fingertips.
“I think it’s a technological feat that we’ve been able to do it and put it on the site so neatly.”
Honest Door allows people to search specific addresses or use the map tool to zoom in on a particular neighbourhood, house, condo or commercial property.
“I see all types of different people utilizing it,” Belostotsky said, “buyers, sellers, curious neighbours.
“If you’re looking for a home maybe not this year, maybe five years down the road, you just love homes, real estate or condos… It’s really fun. You could use it when you’re out for a walk. You know, ‘Hey, what’s that home worth?’ Or, ‘What did it last sell for?’
“You can pull it out and check out whatever property you want.”
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While some homeowners may not be overly thrilled about the sale price of their house being posted, Belostotsky says no privacy rules are being infringed on.
“Some people are like, ‘Hey, I looked up my brother’s house,’ or ‘I don’t like it that my sold price is released,’ or ‘You shouldn’t be judging what my home is worth,’ and that’s fair. We’re not really disclosing anything. These are numbers and numbers aren’t usually considered copywritten or against privacy laws. It really is a number… We’re just really telling you what it sold for and what we think it’s worth.”
Honest Door uses a machine-learning algorithm to calculate current property value assessments.
“We have, I think, a very sophisticated model that actually gives the correct value of your home. The model does learn, the more homes sell. If we’ve given your home a higher valuation, that’s what the model really does think your home is worth,” Belostotsky said.
“We won’t know if you had put in a gold sink for $50,000 in your basement. If that’s the case, then we won’t be able to catch that. But usually, if there’s not a massive discrepancy, the homes are similar based on square footage.”
The site is updated daily as new information is received and inputted.
For Belostotsky, it’s all about opening up information that may otherwise be restricted to a small group of people to everyone.
“Some people would like to buy a home and it’s very difficult right now, not to get an honest opinion, but just an opinion on the fly, immediately. Where do I go? How much is this home worth? How much will it be worth?
“All that type of information was not accessible and that’s why we started it.”
He said sometimes the only piece of information prospective buyers have on this huge purchase is the list price.
“There’s so much information out there for real estate professionals and not enough for consumers so we’re really hoping to empower consumers so that they at least know what’s going on and, at the very least, they can make a faster decision because they have confidence in the information we’re giving them.”