Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Census Data for Real Estate Investors

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Knowing some facts about Houston real estate can help the average buyer, but it can prove vital for the real estate investor. Entrepreneurs need to be up on statistical abstracts to spot the trends and forecasts to make wise home buying decisions.


Metrics: do you love them or hate them? I am a data junkie, so I like to pour over figures when making my business decisions. I carry that habit over to my personal finances too. The problem is that every entrepreneur, or home buyer, has to find the right data quickly. If we have to spend hours on deep statistical research, we may never find the factors that might convince us to buy a house.

My wife comes home to find me intently looking into the computer screen. She peers over my shoulder to see what mischief I may be doing. The Census Bureau she exclaims with a puzzled air. What do you think I would be using the internet for, I reply with a grin. Like anyone trying to jumpstart his business, I look at census data to make decisions about marketing or areas that I could target for investing. I wanted to be able to limit my search by zip code to find a more detailed picture. My first stop has always been government sites, because I find that the data there is extensive. One problem though was finding a way to drill down to more specific data points that could be of use to me. Since I did not see a simple method for finding zip code census data, I just assumed that there was no way for me to obtain it. Then I had a moment of insight, why not see if there was some means of gathering this information. I found these instructions:

  1. At
    www.census.gov, select "American FactFinder" in the left

  2. In
    the lefthand column, select the "Data Sets" button, then
    "Decennial Census".

  3. On
    the Decennial Census page

    1. Select
      the data set: Click the radio button next to one of the following:

      • "2000
        Summary File 1" (to select age, race and hispanic origin,
        household relationship, owners and renters, etc) or

      • "2000
        Summary File 3" (to select migration, education, employment,
        income, housing characteristics).

    2. In
      the righthand column select "Detailed Tables"

  4. On
    the Select Geography page,

    1. In
      the "select a geographic type" box, pick "5-digit
      ZIP Code Tabulation Area" at the bottom of the menu.

    2. Select
      the first 3 digits of the ZIP code

    3. Select
      one or more 5-digit ZIP codes and click "Add".

    4. Click
      on "Next" (If you don’t see the "Next" button,
      scroll right until you do.)

  5. On
    the Select Tables page

    1. Select
      one or more of the tables from the list. Search "by keyword"
      or "by subject" if necessary.

    2. Click

    3. Click
      "Show Result"

This was great news for my real estate search efforts. I could produce a report for my real estate investors that would be helpful. I also produce reports for home buyers, and I thought that some of the data would be appreciated by them too. The problem was that I still had to filter out data that these real estate entrepreneurs needed into one easy page. Housing affordability, number of rental homes, number of foreclosures, and other factors may play a part in making the choice to buy your home. I wanted a quick way to provide news, tips, and real estate insights on one page.

Can all of the information you need to make a wise home purchase fit on one page? Probably not, but when I was studying different websites, I came across a data sheet from a site that was under my nose the entire time. I write guest posts for Homescape, which has become Homefinder.com. When this site went through an overhaul, I examined it once again. When I was comparing results for one specific zip code on several different search engines, I noticed that Homefinder had a “real estate snapshot” link at the top of the search results. Opening it up brought me to a concise data page that had the information that I provide to my clients, and the metrics that I wanted to provide to the real estate investors. With a few tweaks, I would have exactly the kind of sheet that I would need for my data sheets. If you are serious about being a real estate entrepreneur, or you are a home buyer wanting to understand the neighborhood that you are moving into, this sheet is great for you.

One bit of information not provided by the above sites is the data provided by your local county appraisal district. Since I am frequently looking at the sites for four different counties, I wanted to see if I could simplify this process. My search led me to eppraisal.com. With a name like that, I thought that they would provide appraisal data. They did not, but the site did provide another useful search site when looking for homes that includes providing you with the census style data that the real estate snapshot did, so this may be another site for you to use.

If you are looking for foreclosures, Homefinder’s real estate snapshot does have a search function at the bottom of the sheet. This is pretty good, but I found that the best option for the entrepreneur or home buyer would be Roost.com. Their search results are basically the mls (multiple listing service) used by Realtors with foreclosures added.

I think that these sites will be a good place to jumpstart your search in an effective way. If you are buying a home, wether real estate investor or potential home buyer, this data will help you make a wise decision, and for such a large purchase, do we not need to be smart about it?

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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