MB Not-So-Confidential

Posted by Dave Fratello on Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 at 4:49am.

Over time it has become our policy and practice here at MBC not to mention names.

Property owners, buyers, builders and realtors go unnamed in our main stories. The blog author is anonymous, as are the commenters. The occasional exceptions prove the rule.

However, if you want names to go with your local real estate news, it's time to check out Blockshopper.com.

We just discovered this site by accident a couple of weeks ago. It's a real estate site that publishes information about the parties to residential property transactions all over the LA area. (Interestingly, their main front page does not mention LA at all, just Chicago, St. Louis, South Florida and Las Vegas – areas they began writing about before LA.)

Blockshopper provides the information in a few different ways:
  • NEWS BRIEFS – In short news stories, the site publishes information on buyers and sellers. (Click for the Blockshopper MB news page.)
The stories are typically surface-deep, giving just a little info about the parties and rudimentary details about the homes that change hands. There's often a photo of one of the buyers.

A stream of recent headlines from MB tell you who is buying these days: an "investment firm exec," a pediatric dentist, an "oncologist/urologist couple," a corporate lawyer... and so on.

Though the stories aren't indepth, and seem prone to error on some points, they're undoubtedly interesting. MBC now provides a "feed" of the most recent MB stories from Blockshopper in the right-hand column, under the feeds for 2 other local RE blogs.
  • RECENT SALES & INFO – We think you'll find another part of the Blockshopper site useful and irresistible for an occasional drop-by: The MB city page.
This page provides a list of recent sales by address, most recent at the top. (It's not up-to-the-minute; in fact, it's about 30+ days behind.) Click any address, and the site offers as much transaction data on the property as possible, going back 15 years or so.

Other parts of the page publish recent sales figures (medians and sales volume since 2000) and some foreclosure information. One has the sense that these fields could be developed more fully with greater investment.
  • STREET-LEVEL INFO – We've saved the guiltiest pleasure for last. On the MB city page's left-hand column, you can select "Find your Manhattan Beach..." and "Street" to see a pull-down list of the streets in town.
Selecting a street gives you a list of all the properties on that street with the names of owners next to each address. Many properties have notes regarding recent sales.

This makes it uniquely simple to scan the names of your neighbors and answer, at a glance, the question plenty of people ask: Who are they, and much did they pay for that place?

(We should note here that our favorite free tool for indepth info on individual properties is PropertyShark.com.)
Of course, all of this information that Blockshopper provides is not meant purely for voyeuristic purposes. The goal is to provide some new level of shared market intelligence that helps both buyers and sellers.

The site represents a new level of free information for web-savvy consumers. Just a couple of years ago, obtaining much of this information required a pricey subscription or a series of arduous, in-person visits to far-flung county records offices.

Blockshopper is clearly a work in progress, but we generally like what they've done. The news briefs could be improved, and maybe they will be, once the site operators start to get more feedback from MB-area readers.

Let us know in the comments here what you find, what you like and what you don't like on Blockshopper. We know they'll be listening.
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