Public Records Overview

What you need to know about public records to grow your business.

Updated over a week ago

PropertyRadar provides small businesses access to public records data for property and owner information. To be successful using PropertyRadar, it’s important that you understand what public records are and their strengths and weaknesses.

Public records are data, documents, and transactions officially recorded with a government entity as an evolution of common law rights to access court records.

Examples of public records include census records, real property transactions, assessor’s data, court dockets, criminal records, license data, voter registration, and much more.

Public records are a gift to small business.

Public records hold individuals and businesses accountable by making certain types of transactions transparent. Transparency reduces fraud and encourages fair dealings. For example:

  • The county tax assessor can’t lower his friend’s tax bill without subjecting it to public scrutiny

  • A lender can’t protect their security interest in a property without exposing the terms of the loan to the same scrutiny

  • One person can verify that another person owns property claimed by that second party. This is super important for contractors, renters, lenders, etc.

  • And much more, all serving the public interest.

When it comes to growing your business, public records are an amazing resource for researching your market, identifying prospects, and getting to know your customers. Big businesses have successfully leveraged public records as a marketing resource for years. Now, small businesses can too.

Public records are messy.

There are thousands of Local, County, State, and Federal government offices that record public records. The requirements for creating and storing those records vary widely, and many of the rules around them were created before computers even existed, making the data inconsistent. Errors as simple as the dreaded “typo” are common.

These errors, when discovered, are usually easily resolved on an individual basis, even though the records themselves cannot often be corrected, only appended with an updated record noting the error. Unfortunately, with billions of documents in the public record, errors and omissions are quite common. Despite these problems, access to this data provides huge advantages when compared to doing the same research without that same access.

Public records can be scary.

Public records are a cornerstone of civil society; however, the amount of information about each of us that is available and accessible can be quite surprising, even scary. Once your information is part of the public record, it is essentially impossible to remove, even if it is incorrect. It’s tempting to say this information shouldn’t be public. But the alternative would allow bad actors to hide just as easily. A society lacking the transparency of public records is far scarier, in our opinion.

Public records are a privilege.

Despite access to public records being an inherent right embedded in the First, Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, not to mention the Freedom of Information Act, access to this data is a privilege that could ultimately be lost if it is abused. For our part, know that you should read our User Agreement and that we will cooperate with law enforcement if anyone uses our product for nefarious purposes.

Is everything in PropertyRadar from public records?

While public records are our primary source of data, we provide lots of additional information and data to our users. Some are estimated from public records using computer models, machine learning, and some are bought from 3rd parties.

For example, when you fill out a survey for a chance to win something, get a free subscription to a magazine, or allow a company to access your address book or social media account in exchange for using their product, there’s a good chance that the company is making money by reselling your data.

While we are in the business of buying that data for our customers to use, we do not sell our customer’s data. Please refer to our privacy policy, and be sure you review the privacy policy of any company before giving them your personal info.

The PropertyRadar data refinery.

Think of the data you see in PropertyRadar as the refined product from a ceaseless flow of unrefined data coming to us through pipelines. We have hundreds of pipelines of “crude data” coming into the PropertyRadar “data refinery” all day, every day.

As our refinery receives the unrefined “crude data”, we process it into the refined data you see when you use Discover for data visualizations, as your Search Results, in your Lists, and in every Property Profile.

To refine this data, we process it by using the many algorithms we’ve crafted over the past 10 years to inspect, clean, flag, parse, match, validate, verify, and ultimately make available for our user’s search results.

Is it perfect? No. And it never will be. But it’s no worse than what Big businesses use, and in many cases, it’s superior.

Public records are thriving in the data-driven world of business.

Contrary to what Google, Facebook, and social media gurus may want you to believe, public records remain a powerful foundation for targeted local marketing.

Local business who need to connect with homeowners often find that only public records can deliver the knowledge and insights needed to target their market effectively, and often in ways that surpass even the most sophisticated programmatic digital advertising networks. For many small local businesses, public records are the only means of finding their new customers without wasting most of their marketing spend reaching unqualified prospects.

Small businesses often get caught up in the “bright shiny object” fever of social media marketing while neglecting public records as an advantage. Obviously a “Facebook Advertising Guru” is going to want you to believe that EVERYONE is on Facebook and it’s the BEST way to advertise. That works for their business, but it may not always be the best for you.

If your competitors are caught up in this digital fever, their mistake can translate into a bottom-line opportunity for you.

But for all that public records can offer your businesses, it’s important to know their strengths, weaknesses, and your responsibilities when using them.

Your data, my data, and everyone’s data. Everywhere.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.”— Jeff Hammerbacher, data scientist for Facebook & Cloudera, April 14, 2011 

You likely own a smartphone. It’s a safe bet because there are over 400 million cellular device subscriptions in the United States, yours included.

Ever wonder why is it called a smartphone? Does it really make you smarter? We don’t think so. It’s called a smartphone because it makes Big businesses smarter about you. And it makes them a lot of money.

That smartphone you use will contribute 60+ gigabytes annually of data about you and your behaviors to your network provider, and whoever they sell it to. Depending on how many apps and social media services you use, the advertisements you click on, all the websites you visit, the number of data points your behavior contributes each year about you is in the billions.

Now, multiply your data contribution by every wireless subscriber. Add data from the nearly 90% of US households with an internet connection. Finally, include all those IoT devices, like your Fitbit and Amazon Echo, your shopping habits, your financial transactions, and don’t forget to include all the data from the forms you filled out, and the social media services you use… it’s staggering.

Small data for small businesses.

Big data dominates the headlines. The amount of personal and behavioral data contributed to these Big businesses is beyond belief and they are making billions in revenue from selling and buying this data to each other. The ultimate purpose? Better advertising and marketing designed to sell more products and services, and to influence your behavior. All these “free” services you use are being paid for by your data. If it’s free, you are the product.

When it comes to data-driven marketing for business, the advantages have certainly been in favor of Big businesses.

Our goal is to make available to small business the public records data that they need to find, know, and connect with their best potential customers. It’s small data for small business.

We started doing this in 2007 with ForeclosureRadar. We were providing individual trustee sale investors better data than big banks and large institutional investors were able to access.

Big business can invest millions of dollars into data sources and the newest, most sophisticated tools. Anything you see in PropertyRadar now, just know that Big business is and has been using it for years.

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