It is a killer app for homebuyers but a blow to real estate agents. King County of Washington State, which includes Seattle and nearby suburban areas, just released an eSales Search System, which allows user to search all property transaction records based on a number criteria, like area, sales price, lot size, total living area, year built and transaction date.
Before the availability of this application, it is labor-consuming, if not virtually impossible, for an ordinary homebuyer to do a Competitive Market Analysis (CMA) by himself. This makes CMA an aarea that real estate agents can add value, because they have access to transaction history via their proprietary systems like MLS.
I did have some experience manually search property transaction records in my area. My process is a multiple-step one:
First, I start by search Deed of Trust type of public records in King County's official public records library. Deed of Trust documents, in most cases, indicate property ownership transfer. As this public record search engine allows me to specify a range of tax parcel # to reduce number of match records, this step allows me to get a list of properties that experienced ownership transfer in a specified period of time.
Second, armed with the tax parcel # of suspect properties, I can get a detailed eProperty report, which will list the transaction history and transaction price of any property in the last 10 years. The report also includes the details of the property.
Thank you for people who developed this eSales Search System, homebuyers do not need an agent to do a CMA, and agents have one less reason to charge a 6% commission to sell a house.