May 19, 2020

Property Values: What’s The True Value Of A Real Estate Investment?

An image of a house with a question mark in front of the door.

The $27 trillion residential real estate is the largest asset class in the United States, and for many Americans, buying a home is the single largest investment they will ever make.

But what is the true value of residential properties? Does anyone really know?

And perhaps even more importantly, how is the value of properties trending? Is it going up? Is it going down? Why?

Those are precisely the kinds of questions we’re answering at HouseCanary.

Years ago, when I worked as a strategy consultant, I helped companies in the consumer packaged goods sector optimize the sale of everyday items like clothing, shoes and deodorant. Because we were data-driven, we could be very specific, pinpointing where to ship inventory based on weather forecasts, known buying behaviors, etc.

Then, after the 2008 Financial Crisis, I was called in to help some top U.S. investors make smart decisions about newly-available real estate. I was stunned to discover how difficult it was to apply data-driven tactics to calculate and forecast property values.

The simple truth is, back then, we could predict fashion trends better than we could predict real estate trends. Information about the market for women’s shoes, for instance, was more readily available, more abundant and more accurate (!) than information about the homes for sale in my neighborhood.

Property Values: Time to move beyond Real Estate Data 1.0

I was dumfounded. And essentially, that’s how HouseCanary was born. I realized it was time to move beyond Real Estate Data 1.0 –and from the beginning, it was clear that doing so would completely transform how real estate properties are bought and sold.

Think about it. What if real estate  property values no longer depended on a “guesstimate,” a realtor’s hunch or “going with your gut?” What if investors could buy and sell with confidence –because the decisions they made were backed by data?

How does HouseCanary help investors, buyers, and sellers better understand property values?

Over the past few years, HouseCanary has built:

  • A single source of truth for real estate decisions. We pull sales and listing information from MLS and county assessor records, and then add in macroeconomic data, capital markets data, mortgage records, house/parcel data and search and social data.
  • Analytics to help determine—and forecast –property values. At HouseCanary, we run eight individual Automated Valuation Models (AVMs) and use our unique ensemble methodology to apply thousands of simulations for each property we track. We customize the weight we assign to various data sources to account for regional differences in market trends, economic factors and demographics and assess property values accurately.
  • A suite of products that leverage our data set and analytics.  HouseCanary’s Value Report provides current property valuations and highly accurate three-year value forecasts for agents, lenders, investors and others. Appraiser is a tool to help appraisers value real estate more accurately, objectively and efficiently. Pro, our market analysis product, offers a birds-eye view of market health by MSA and zip code, so professionals can objectively assess macroeconomic impacts on regional home values. And finally, our Analytics API makes high-value property details available, on demand, so that teams and enterprises innovate with confidence.

Pull all of that together, and you’ll begin to understand how we are able to accurately characterize the risk and opportunity in real estate, driving strategic decisions for underwriting and valuation and creating an information advantage for our users. Other sector have been benefiting from this kind of data-driven approach for years. It works for consumer packaged goods like deodorant . . . and at HouseCanary, we’re proving it works for real estate, too.