I am pleased to announce that GG+A has incorporated vastly enhanced real estate information into DonorScape®. Our source provider, Lexis-Nexis®, recently completed a multi-year effort to provide more comprehensive coverage of real property across the United States. GG+A’s data now includes 157.2 million property records, up from 99 million just 12 months ago. In addition to residential properties, DonorScape® now includes improved information on adjoining lots, agricultural land, income-producing properties, and commercial holdings. DonorScape® now provides real estate coverage from over 3,000 US counties (of 3,054 total counties across the nation).
This expansion of data is just another step in our commitment to providing the most accurate and useful information to you that we can. GG+A does not simply “repeat” the data we receive from Lexis-Nexis®–in fact, significant data cleansing and verification occurs before the data ever reaches the DonorScape website. For example, GG+A searches for large differences between reported sales values and assessed values to identify and correct data-entry errors (it’s very easy—and common, for a $100,000.00 house to become a $10,000,000 palace if the decimal isn’t typed in!). In multi-unit housing, if GG+A is unable to connect a unit-owner to a specific unit, DonorScape® does not report the aggregate value of the whole building, as some companies do. Additionally, GG+A continuously revises the DonorScape® rating formula so that real estate does not play an out-sized role in the rating—second homes are valued more highly than primary residences, the value of real estate in the rating increases with the age of the homeowner, and real estate values are included in relation to other factors such as income so that the formula can adapt to inconsistencies.
Within DonorScape®, when viewing a property record, always note the blue box in the upper right corner of the screen. This box displays the number of matches on the prospect record at each match quality rating level. If the total is ever more than 1, it means GG+A has identified more than one property associated with this owner. Sometimes the second property is an adjoining lot, which I might describe as “sort of interesting.” But sometimes, we’re able to find very significant vacation homes, rental properties owned by the prospect, or large properties such as vineyards. The $350,000 family home in Nebraska might be dwarfed by the $2.7 million house in Palm Beach!
A couple of definitions in the Real Estate screens that we get asked about:
“Assessed Value”—The amount of money reported by the county on which real estate taxes are paid. In many counties, this number is fairly close to actual market value, though in plenty of places the assessed value can be much lower than market value. It is almost never higher.
“Tape Cut Date”—The month and year that the county provided this information to Lexis-Nexis. GG+A updates the data we receive monthly, though the lag between the county and Lexis-Nexis can be up to three years in counties that do not assess each property each year.
“Recording Date”—The date that the county first listed the property with the current owner. The date is usually within one month of the actual purchase date of a property.
“Assessed Land” and “Assessed Improvement”—Land refers to the assessed value of the actual land around and under the house, while improvement refers to built structures such as houses and garages (not to mention pipes and sewers).
And finally, why is the value reported in DonorScape different than values found at Zillow.com or other sources? The answer is that real estate values change all the time. The only instant the property has any actual, liquid value is the moment it changes hands from one owner to another for a set price, and even the fact of that sale instantly changes its current value. Changes on sites like Zillow often reflect sales of nearby properties—if the house down the street sells for more than expected, your house will likely see a bump in its estimated value. GG+A tries to provide recent, vetted source data to get a realistic estimate of the value—all other things being equal, if we call a house at $2.5 million, and someone else says $2.7 million, neither one of us is probably right to the penny, and it’s still a big house. Better go have a gift officer see if she can get a meeting—a big house is a big house.
If you have questions or suggestions about DonorScape’s use of real estate information, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.