There’s big business in the tracking of home prices - The Buffalo News

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There’s big business in the tracking of home prices

The dramatic collapse and recovery of home prices in recent years has stoked interest in the fate of housing, creating new fans for wonky price indexes formerly tracked mostly by the slide-rule set.

A company that provides much of that data has just completed a $750 million shopping spree, making it the 800-pound gorilla of real estate numbers.

In addition to producing its own monthly price index, CoreLogic of Irvine, Calif., now owns two other leading brands: The Case-Shiller home price indices and DataQuick Information Systems.

But the acquisition binge included much more than home-price trackers.

CoreLogic also bought a leading provider of building replacement costs, two new operations that track flood zone locations and a firm that forecasts disaster risks for property owners around the globe.

The combined operations give CoreLogic the ability to sell clients information about almost any property’s past, present and future, said Olumide Soroye, CoreLogic’s managing director for information solutions.

“This really is about a lot more than just the (home price) indices,” Soroye said. “It’s about the gold standard of data we can offer the industry on properties and their life cycle.”

The acquisitions enhance the databases and analytical tools CoreLogic already sells. Those include technology to detect fraud and provide information on real estate transactions, mortgages, collateral, payment histories and property locations and features.

The firm’s 10 biggest clients – mostly top banks – account for 29 percent of its revenue, the company has reported in public filings. Other clients include mortgage lenders and brokers, investors, real estate agents, insurance companies, property managers and government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae.

Last year, CoreLogic generated $1.3 billion in revenue, $591 million from its data and analytics division.

As money from services for mortgage lenders declines amid rising interest rates, CoreLogic is trying to increase revenue from the data and analytics side of its business.

“Builders and developers are interested. Lenders are interested. Hedge funds are interested,” observed Bill McBride, author of Calculated Risk, a housing and finance blog followed by economists. “Clearly it has to provide good revenue for them. … That’s a big part of their business.”

Data firms that include RealtyTrac, Zillow, DataQuick, Redfin and CoreLogic produce a host of housing market reports – distributed for free to the news media – to promote themselves.

Businesses are more likely to think of them when they need information about a particular deed or mortgage, or when buying data on specific markets or acquiring automated valuation models.

“The PR benefit is very large,” said Richard Green, director of the University of Southern California’s Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Data firms are careful not to provide free information that competes with products they sell, which includes loan-by-loan data and information that helps lenders detect fraud or determine which borrowers are greater default risks.

CoreLogic is one of the nation’s biggest real-estate data firms, with 3.3 billion records covering 99 percent of U.S. properties over the past 40 years.

Records include the history of a parcel’s owners, details on loan modifications, secondary market securities, real estate listings and transactions, Soroye said.

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