Covering real estate for 17 years has helped Catherine Reagor of The Arizona Republic develop sources and learn where to find data. So when she heard large investors were buying properties in Phoenix, she knew where to start digging.
The story started as a look at rentals in the area. She found as much as 35 percent of housing in some ZIP codes were rentals, she says. That made her question who the buyers were.
She used her data skills to find answers. She says she talks with data services to determine what else things like foreclosure statistics could show. She asks title companies and real estate firms where they find their information.
“Title companies have an amazing amount of data … and a lot of times they hire outside firms to get data,” Catherine says. “Find out who they hire and get information.”
Arizona’s public real estate records can offer such specific information as how much of a down payment buyers made. (She cautions not all states provide such details.) Those property records gave her different names that she had to trace back to the larger investors. Her source list of foreclosure auction companies, real estate experts and data miners led her to the names she needed.
The biggest concern with investors buying huge stakes is what they plan to do with them, Catherine says. Her story says they plan to “become publicly traded real-estate investment trusts to attract smaller investors looking to grab a stake in real estate.”
Catherine says the issue is an ongoing story because a sudden selling spree would negatively affect the market. She monitors properties with a daily report on sales – another tool that may not be available in every market, she says.
“Housing is our biggest industry,” she says. “Vegas has gambling. Detroit has cars. We have real estate.”