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What would be the easiest method of collecting data about rental properties. I'm looking for per-unit information including:

  • Monthly Rent
  • Are utilities included?
  • Monthly Electric bill
  • Heating fuel
  • Heating cost per month
  • Taxes per month
  • Number of bedrooms
  • Square footage

And really, as much information as I can get about the property. I've done a lot of looking and I've yet to find any resource online with any of this information, so I would like to collect my own. Having never done this before, I'm struggling to find the best method of collecting this data.

I fear that it would be inefficient to survey to collect the data. The method I've been thinking of is to introduce a utility for rental property owners to manage their properties, and collect the data they enter into that.

Another idea was to contact property managers with large portfolios and survey them, as I believe they would be more accurate in their reporting as they don't generally have as close a connection to the property.

Any suggestions or resources would be appreciated.

  • Some local governments (county or municipal) require people renting out properties to register with them. It may only be for multi-family dwellings, but there's been a push in my area for all rental properties to be registered (so they know who to contact when there's an issue with noise or property maintenance) – Joe Jul 1 '14 at 16:06
  • I can go to most of the local government offices and purchase lists of absentee owners, most of which are rental property owners, but I'd like to find a method that doesn't require me to contact each owner individually, as the amount of data required is quite vast. Obviously, I will, if that's the only way, but figured I'd see if there was anyone with any unique ideas. – Travis Weston Jul 1 '14 at 16:26
  • I was thinking that if they had those lists, they might have more info (such as rental prices; the paperwork I saw had it .. I assume for equal opportunity complaints (charging higher rates to protected classes of people)). Square footage, tax & bedrooms would be part of the land & tax records. It's possible that the group that tracks rentals also tracks utilities ... I'd also be surprised if the U.S. HUD (Housing & Urban Development) didn't track these sorts of things. – Joe Jul 1 '14 at 17:50
  • Now that is an idea. Do you know if those lists are available to the public, even if for a fee? – Travis Weston Jul 1 '14 at 21:25
  • Property tax & land records are generally open. In some places you might have to visit the assessment office, but Maryland has theirs online. I've never tried asking about the data from the group that deals with rentals in our county, but I'd assume they'd fall under open records laws. – Joe Jul 1 '14 at 21:30
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HUD offers a lot of rent related information (by County). For example, the 50th percentile estimates contain the medium rent per studio, 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms per county.

http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/pis.html

I also keep a copy, converted to our linked CSV vocabulary, of some of these datasets here:

http://www.opengeocode.org/cude1.1/HUD/PHA/index.php

  • I've looked at these sources, and they're great, but the math I'm working on is attempting to be more targeted, which is why I'm limited to gathering the information on a per-address basis. – Travis Weston Jul 2 '14 at 14:30
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Zillow has data on bedrooms, square footage and property tax estimates. I think rent is too malleable for you to easily track it on the basis of individual addresses, but you could estimate it based on approximate home value (which Zillow tracks) and appropriate ratios that are measured at a neighborhood / city level.

Here's one basic table that tracks home price to rent ratio for 2009 derived from a few sources, which you can use to estimate rent for individual properties using data from Zillow (there's a lot of data like this out there, this was just from a quick search).

As far as utilities go, I'm less sure if you can easily find that on an address-by-address basis. Record-keeping will vary by utility company, but I suspect it won't be public on a large scale at such a low, identifiable level. You might be able to extrapolate these as well based on square footage and other publicly available property qualities combined with neighborhood level data, but it certainly wouldn't be precise.

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