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Beginning the Hunt: Finding Comps and How to Use Them

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Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to tips@curbed.com. Our first topic: comps!

The Internet is a beautiful thing. Websites like Streeteasy, PropertyShark, the Times Comparable Sales Data site, and (to a slightly more confusing degree) the NYS DOS’s Automated City Register Information System (ACRIS), have made formerly impossible to obtain real estate information public knowledge. Closing prices, building’s sale history, and forums have made the industry more transparent and basically eliminated the need for brokers to find you an apartment.

A quick searching breakdown:
Streeteasy: When it comes to searching by area, Streeteasy has options to search by neighborhood, zip code, address, building, or even by street or commute time. You can get a lot of information for free, but to see the recorded sale prices and other nifty info, you must become a Streeteasy Insider for $10 a month. (Or just go look up the recorded price on ACRIS.)

PropertyShark: Requires a (free) log-in to get basic information, unlike the other sites. For more information, including what you would need to run comps, you’ll be laying down at least $64.95 a month for the lowest level of membership.

Trulia and Zillow: Works for searching properties currently on the market, but doesn't always work for comps.

NY Times: Searching is either by address or by borough and neighborhood with a date range. You can only search sold listings with this section, but it is a good basic search.

ACRIS: You can search by deeds, mortgages, liens, or “other,” and you need to first look up the Borough/Block/Lot to search for a specific property. ACRIS is not very user friendly, and unless you’re looking for official documents, steer clear.

Depending on if you’re looking in a specific building or just in a neighborhood, you’ll have to do things a little differently. If you’re looking at neighborhoods, take a look at the market reports of the major real estate firms as well. (To start, Elliman, Corcoran, Halstead, Brown Harris Stevens.) Latch onto the buildings you like and make sure to check for updates or sign up for email updates. Explore! Have fun! Searching for comps is the best way of getting acclimated to the real estate market.
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