Government and Real Estate

An idea whose time has come

Agreement between county and GRAR seen as benefiting public and real estate industry.

February 22, 2013
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Now that Kent County commissioners have approved a one-year information-sharing agreement between the county and Grand Rapids Association of Realtors, County Equalization Director Matt Woolford can take the next step to solidify the first-time contract.

Because the agreement isn’t limited to the participants, Woolford is going to offer assessors in all the county’s taxing jurisdictions a chance be involved. Local assessors would have access to the GRAR data on a read-only basis and supply the association with their information.

“We’re probably going to be taking a look at those units that want to participate over the next several weeks, looking at the March board of review as a logical time to give the realtors a fresh set of data,” he said.

“As far as I’m concerned, the agreement is in effect. It’s just a matter of developing the frequency of the updates in cooperation with GRAR. I have a good sense of what that may look like, but that hasn’t been finalized at this point,” he added.

Woolford said he has discussed the update issue with GRAR CEO Julie Rietberg, along with the group’s software platform provider, and he hopes to have the details ironed out in a matter of days.

GRAR’s listing information is open to the public at grar.com, but this agreement gives the county and local assessors access to what is typically thought of as pre-sale data — information assessors can use to better determine property values. Woolford said the contract gives assessors the ability to generate market reports that summarize property data in one specific area or in multiple locales.

“An assessor can get a sense of the amount of time homes are on the market and the number of total homes in an inventory. Those types of real estate statistics will help assessors make more informed decisions about the real estate transactions they’re looking at, once they’ve been consummated and are coming across their desks in the form of deeds and property transfer affidavits,” he said. “So it really rounds out the assessor’s view of what’s happening in the real estate market.”

In exchange, the participating assessors will give GRAR a full report of the information they have in their data bases. That would include the square footage of buildings, land dimensions and legal descriptions.

“Instead of having to look at data one or two parcels at a time, realtors will be provided, through their GRAR membership, with downloaded data for an entire township and city, and that information will be imported into the GRAR system,” said Woolford.

“It will basically be pre-populated for them, saving everyone who is involved in residential real estate transactions time and money on their research needs.”

Woolford said he has always looked at the information the assessors have as vital, which became the driving force for his interest in forming the agreement. His long-held interest only grew as data became more available virtually and easier to exchange digitally.

“For a long time I have had the perspective that we can mutually benefit the citizens of the county by providing the comprehensive real estate industry, on both the public and the private sides, easier access to this information from both sides. So it’s really just an idea that, I guess, its time has come,” he said.

Once the county gains access to the GRAR information, County Corporate Counsel Dan Ophoff said the data will become public record. He also said the information will be subject to Freedom of Information requests.

“We hope that this partnership reduces the effort that it takes citizens to get timely and accurate information on building characteristics and everyone benefits from it. That’s the idea.”

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