Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2001, MCB UP Limited
Scarlett PalmerThe Department of Land Management and Development,The University of Reading, RG6 6AW, UKE-mail: email@example.com
Keywords: USA, Real estate, Data collection, Internet
In my last Internet briefing (Vol.19 No.2) I looked at the Urban Land Institute's Web site and mentioned that in this issue I would provide a listing, under topic headings, of some more general, but equally useful, US sites. Many thanks to all of you who e-mailed me to suggest sites for inclusion and request topic headings, I shall do my best to satisfy you all!
Naturally, if you search for "real estate + US" using any search engine you will retrieve thousands of sites but very few of any worth to a researcher. The vast majority will be property listing sites or holiday home exchange schemes. To avoid wasted hours wading through the dross there are obviously more intelligent ways of searching – see my Internet Briefing in Vol.17 No.5 of this journal if you need some pointers. I hope that the review below will also provide some starting points.
This review is no way intended to provide a comprehensive listing (nor would it be possible to produce one). I have included details of sites that I have personally found useful and accurate or that have been recommended to me as such by people that I trust! I have grouped them roughly under topic headings, although some of the more comprehensive sites contain so much information that they could sit happily under any of the categories. Many of them provide links to similar or related sites and so act as useful jumping off points.
More and more UK based researchers are working jointly with colleagues in the USA and joining a US-based professional organisation can be a useful way of making contacts etc. I have had several requests for a list of relevant associations in the USA and I hope my listing will include something for everyone. Many of these organisations also have excellent Web sites, which provide research level information and useful further links.
Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE) have a site at <www.afire.org.>. The Association was "created to support foreign institutions in the US market and continues to inform the foreign investor about legislation and tax rulings in the USA that may affect their investments". Although the information available to non-members is limited there are useful data on foreign investment in US real estate.
American Planning Association and American Institute of Certified Planners (no jokes about "shouldn't they all be") share a site that is at <www.planning.org>. This is useful staring point if you need information on the US planning system and includes downloadable research reports on current planning-related issues.
American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association (AREUEA) "grew from discussions of individuals that recognized a need for more information and analysis in the fields of real estate development, planning and economics…and facilitates the exchange of information and opinions among academic, professional and governmental people who are concerned with urban economics and real estate issues". Their web site at <www.areuea.org> includes an online newsletter and a useful search facility for their journal Real Estate Economics.
The American Real Estate Society (ARES) "is a society of and for high-level practicing professionals and real estate professors at colleges and universities throughout the United States and the world" and their Web site can be found at <www.aresnet.org>. The society publishes a number of journals including the Journal of Real Estate Research, the Journal of Real Estate Literature and the Journal of Real Estate Portfolio Management and the site allows a search to be carried out across back issues of all of these. This includes a full text search of the abstracts and, in some cases, the results include access to the full text of the article. Their newsletter is also available online.
The Appraisal Institute has a site at <www.nareim.org> offers little information for non-members but when I accessed it for this article (1 May 2001) there was a full-text special report available entitled "How is technology changing real estate investment management?" which made interesting reading.
National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) has a site at <www.nareit.com>. In contrast to the above this site provides a plethora of information. It sells itself as "your internet source for information about REITs and publicly traded real estate" and provides a very useful introduction to REITs. The site also has a comprehensive glossary of all those terms and acronyms you have never dared to admit you don't know what they mean. The "research and statistics" section includes statistics on the investment performance of publicly traded real estate that can be downloaded directly into excel spreadsheets.
Some information on US companies can be obtained through UK based Web sites (see review in Vol. 18 No. 2 of this journal). However, I am including details of a couple of useful US based sites that offer more comprehensive information.
Hoover's Online (which also has a UK-based site) offers business company and industry information at its site <www.hoovers.com>. Hoover's claims to be "the Web's most comprehensive source of business information, designed to be the first and only site business people need". The site has details of "more than 65,000 companies worldwide including company descriptions, key competitor and officer information, as well as financials on more than 16,000 public, private and international companies". Although much information is available to subscribers only, non-subscribers can, amongst other things, carry out searches for company information in up to 90 days' worth of articles from more than a dozen newswires and publications and search for the latest research, reports, and analyses from a variety of leading providers.
US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) offers company information from EDGAR (electronic data gathering, analysis, and retrieval system) at <www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml>. SEC requires all public companies (except foreign companies and companies with less than $10 million in assets and 500 shareholders) to file registration statements, periodic reports, and other forms electronically through EDGAR. Anyone can access and download this information for free. The database contains information from 1994 onwards and offers a variety of search options including "Quick forms lookup" to find specific forms for a particular company and "Current events analysis" to retrieve filings made on EDGAR during the previous week.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission site is a good example of the quality and quantity of information provided over the Web by the US government. The two sites I have included that provide high quality economic information are also government sites.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis has a site at <www.bea.doc.gov>. This is a really comprehensive and well-designed site offering national, international, regional and industry related data and articles. The site includes historical US data back to 1967 and much of the statistical information can be downloaded directly into excel spreadsheets.
The US Census Bureau has a clear and well laid out site that can be found at <www.census.gov>. In addition to conventional demographic census information (some of which is available for the 2000 census), the site includes the data from the economic census that profiles the US economy every five years, from the national to the local level. Reports are available for the latest census (1997) for all geographic areas and all sectors. Economy-wide reports include SIC-based comparative statistics. There is also a link to "E-stats" which provides statistics and research papers on the e-economy.
Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
I had a couple of requests specifically asking for information on REITs. In addition to the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) site mentioned above, another site worth a look is:
REITNet <www.reitnet.com>. The site claims that "REITNet provides access to essential decision-making tools needed to critically and objectively evaluate real estate investment options. Nowhere on the Internet can you find a better collection of REIT information". Although it may not completely live up to this claim it does have a number of useful features. The "MarkeTrac" (sic) facility, for example, gives you data on market trends in the office, apartment, retail and industrial sectors plus general economic trends. There is an online dividend discount model that allows you to evaluate a specific stock and also a list of expected returns for several major stock indices.
Finally, a couple sites that give access to more general information are detailed below.
A US gazetteer is available as a link from the US census site mentioned above <www.census.gov/cgi-bin/gazetteer>. This useful site allows "you to search for places, counties or MCDs by entering the name and state abbreviation (optional), or five-digit zip code". Once you have located the place you can view maps and even cross reference back to census information. The maps are zoomable down to street level and can be layered to include options such as state boundaries and Indian reservations.
<www.anywho.com> is one of those really useful sites that you just wish had a UK equivalent (or maybe it does and I just do not know about it). The site allows you to find people and businesses in the USA and Canada in a manner similar to directory enquiries or the Yellow Pages. However, once you have located the business or person you can, inter alia, get a map of the location, request driving directions from anywhere in the USA or Canada and retrieve details of adjacent businesses. It also has a "Reverse lookup" which gives you the name and postal address for any phone number you type in.
Sites reviewed in this article
Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate (AFIRE): www.afire.org
American Planning Association and American Institute of Certified Planners: www.planning.org
American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association (AREUEA): www.areuea.org
The American Real Estate Society (ARES): www.aresnet.org
The Appraisal Institute: www.appraisalinstitute.org
The Bureau of Economic Analysis: www.bea.doc.gov
Hoover's Online: www.hoovers.com
National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers (NAREIM): www.nareim.org
National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT): www.nareit.com
US Census Bureau: www.census.gov
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC): www.sec.gov/edgar.shtml