Speaking as part of a congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee Speakers Series event back in March, Zillow's CEO, Spencer Rascoff underscored the benefits open data could bring to consumers in the housing market. He said he believes that if the government opened up its databases, consumers looking for new homes could use that information to make better decisions.
Much of the data on Zillow, the largest real-estate site in the United States in terms of monthly users, comes from intermediaries. Zillow and its competitors pay other firms millions of dollars a year to send people into county courthouses to buy property records and repackage them.
That information includes how much previous buyers paid for the houses; property attributes such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and roof type; and tax assessments and taxes paid.
Rascoff said only a small portion of the data on Zillow's website is obtained for free from agencies such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He said having regulatory agencies open their data to the public would give people greater insight into the housing market and other sectors.
It is hard to find a downside to sharing the data, he added. "Better decisions are made because of all that data," Rascoff said.
Although some critics say sharing foreclosure data violates the privacy of individuals, Rascoff argued that the pros of publishing the data outweigh the cons. Zillow posts about 1 million foreclosure listings and 1 million pre-foreclosure listings for free, he added.