November 05. 2005
New York Times
Three years ago, Matthew Haines was remodeling a five-family brownstone he bought in Harlem when inspiration hit him. "There were all these abandoned buildings that were holding down my rent roll," he recalled saying to himself. "What can I do to make other homeowners comfortable buying here?"
What they needed, he decided, was the ability to research a property - to see its recent sale prices, the prices of other properties in a neighborhood and even a glimpse of its potential problems. Buyers could obtain that data, but it would take days, trotting from one government office to another. "Some of the information is so arcane that you might as well not use it," Mr. Haines said in a telephone interview.
His solution was PropertyShark.com, a Web site he founded that details New York real estate like no other. Here in one spot are layers of data from public records. "We saw our site as an opportunity to level the playing field," said Mr. Haines, a software developer.
As real estate markets across the United States begin cooling, the playing field is shifting to favor the buyer. In many communities, a seller no longer holds as powerful a position during negotiations as was the case even four months ago. Buyers will want to play whatever slight advantage the market is giving them. To do that well, they need as much information as they can get. In the hands of the buyer - or the seller - information from data-packed Web sites like PropertyShark can pivot the negotiation dynamics.
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