Hacking real estate to find the best off-market deals

Winning in real estate is about better information, with data sources like Redfin and MLS as table stakes. The most successful real estate players win by having an information edge. HeadlessBrowserAPI is a smart web-scraper – letting innovative real estate players like Mr. Tomko find leads that others can’t. Here’s how Mr. Tomko identifies high value properties and unlocks the best deals on the market.

Mr. Tomko works part-time as a real estate entrepreneur in Franklin County, Ohio. His success is contingent upon being able to find and purchase valuable properties at a good price so that he can renovate and rent them out for profit. Like any savvy real estate player, Mr. Tomko knows that unlisted properties in direct buyer-to-seller transactions offer the greatest value (these are unknown to other buyers and bypass a commission fee). To find these unlisted properties Mr. Tomko has to reach out to many individual owners, leading to a few real transactions. The trick is generating the best leads.

Like many counties in the U.S., Franklin County, has a large repository of public documents available at the Auditor’s website. The website lists every land parcel in the county with its appraised value, address, owner, last transaction date and value, number of bedrooms and mortgage documents. With this information, Mr. Tomko can reach out to property owners whose land matches his criteria (housing type, geography, appraised value and last turnover date).

The website has the data, but it is unstructured and difficult to access – users need to enter the land parcel ID number (a combination of the tax ID and a 6 digit number corresponding resident type) and then transcribe that data. Using HeadlessBrowserAPI, Mr. Tomko quickly scrapes and structures the data for all the parcels he’s interested in, generating qualified leads.

Now the wealth of previously hidden parcel data is easily accessible as data in a WordPress database. Mr. Tomko then filters for parcels that match the ZIP codes he cares about and sends letters to the relevant owners. Using the previous transaction and audit information, he adds a well informed initial offer.

To date, Mr. Tomko has reached out to ~5,000 properties and is closing deals for 12 units. He refreshes his data set weekly, helping him stay ahead of the market, see the best deals first and capture more value.

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