If you ever wanted to know how many vacant residential lots there are in North Vancouver or Kelowna, BC, former real estate agent Rudy Nielsen could tell you- 2,338 and 1,103 respectively.
Those numbers, and answers to other BC real estate related queries can be found by both consumers and real estate agents by searching his company’s on-line service landcor.com
In his 35 years in the real estate business, Nielsen, now president of Landcor Data Corporation, has always been a self-described “hoarder” of information. At first, black binders were used to store away maps and information about property and sales. Later, Nielsen discovered how computers could help him manage his data. In the early ‘80s he purchased a 286 PC and started to input the information he accumulated about properties in BC
The practice paid off. The New Westminster, BC, resident who started his career as an agent in 1964 today owns one of the largest recreational portfolios in the province. Nielsen says he is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to the industry, noting his peers in the business have always tended to shun technology.
“Real estate salesmen do not believe in technology, they believe in the old ways,” he says. “Some of the largest real estate firms still don’t have computers on their desks- but who suffers? The buyer.”
“If you wanted to move to BC and you landed here and called a realtor, you’d have to rely on that realtor who’s getting paid by the vendor to make sure you’re getting the right price,” says Nielsen who is determined to change all that with his online service.
Then last month Nielsen launched what might be the biggest development in the industry yet- a searchable system dedicated to providing up-to-date information on the value of homes and properties in British Columbia. The info is based on assessment data he bought from the province and other private sources. New home buyers and agents can search out information on more than 1.6 million homes and properties in BC, evaluate the estimated value for an individual residential property, based on sales of comparable properties, or simply research neighborhood sales trends.
By paying a fee of $5.95, users can receive a Property Profiler report including the assessed value, lot size, finished area, year built, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the last four sales and more, using database technology and search engines combined with real estate and property valuation data. The site does not provide owner names or postal codes, protecting the privacy of individual owners.
“No other system in North America offers such high quality valuations for residential properties in such a wide market area,” says Stan Hamilton, a professor of urban land economics and senior associate dean ,faculty of commerce and business administration, University of British Columbia.
When Nielsen approached the province about buying access to its assessment rolls, an unprecedented deal was struck: Nielsen will pay $4 million over seven years for the information. It’s a deal he says benefits both parties because the assessment authorities receive a steady source of revenue from him and he gets the assessment data to build Landcor.
“I’m updating electronically, on a weekly basis. All the title offices in BC record the sales, they go through the assessment authorities, which goes through their server and is downloaded to me every Monday.” says Nielsen.
With that kind of information available to consumers, Landcor has quickly caught the attention of real estate agents- over 33 across BC have signed up for the service, including Sutton Group, Realty World, Coldwell Banker and Nielsen is in talks with the Vancouver Real Estate Board.
It seems it’s not just consumers who want to tap into what Nielsen has to offer.