The website of upstart real-estate start-up Sawbuck Realty has a little something that anyone researching the Houston housing market might find helpful: the prices properties actually sold for. Well, at least the ones recorded in the MLS in the last year. Sale prices aren’t ordinarily made public in Texas — it’s a non-disclosure state. Instead, that info is hoarded by the keepers of the MLS, who now share it with a few appraisal districts but otherwise do their best to keep it out of the hands of consumers. But a 2008 settlement between Justice Dept. and the National Association of Realtors allows “virtual office websites” the same access to MLS data as regular brokers. That’s Sawbuck’s in: “When a user registers on our site they are establishing a relationship with us so we’re able to show them more information than just a standard public facing website,” explains Sawbuck’s Chewy Redding.
Sawbuck Realty is an online brokerage based in Washington D.C.; earlier this month Houston became its 12th local market. The Sawbuck website has a few neat features, including a decently annotated map and a Twitter-like stream of data for individual neighborhoods, which includes such “status updates” as price cuts, contract signings, and properties returning to market. Both maps and feeds should be useful for any non-broker scouting out a neighborhood.
The site gives up pretty easily info that HAR’s consumer site is stingy with, like how many days a property’s actually been on the market and the dates and amounts of all asking-price changes. But it does have some notable gaps: Duplexes aren’t included at all (they’re considered “multifamily properties”), and a bizarre glitch means you can’t find any info on a property listed for sale if it’s also listed for lease.