The Transparency of Public Records
One of the most difficult aspects of commercial and residential lending is parsing the data needed to make the most informed business decisions. Even when this data is a matter of public record, obtaining – and comprehending – the data you need isn’t always easy.
The Challenge of Public Records
For years, many people seeking access to records have criticized the process of petitioning and obtaining what should be publicly available information. Part of this is a logistical issue: with records being maintained by a variety of autonomous municipalities – from county courts all the way up to the federal government – there is no centralized database for those seeking access to these records to use.
Compounding the issue is the fact that the process of petitioning for and obtaining this data is rarely transparent. Information regarding how to request public records is often difficult to find and the process – both from the perspective of the petitioner and the workflow the request goes though – unclear. For example, the official guidance for making a request for public records in Massachusetts specifies that requests for public records must be made to “the entity that created or received them.” Who or what this entity is may not be immediately apparent to the requestor, which may itself require some investigation.
Further complicating matters is the fact that, by the admission of the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the law doesn’t specify a set format for requesting these records, nor the costs related to obtaining them. This could be considered ambiguous at best, frustrating – even costly, particularly for those who need this data to drive better business decisions – at worst.
A Push for Greater Access
In response to this ambiguity, many counties have sought ways to increase ease of access to public records. A recent initiative by the city of Rochester, New York, sees lawmakers trying to craft a streamlined, intuitive system for obtaining public records online.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Mayor Lovely Warren told Democrat & Chronicle. “Every document we create belongs to the public. Every dollar we spend is the public’s money.”
This initiative, and a similar initiative started in in Ithaca, New York, cuts down on the amount of municipal resources required to search for and maintain public records. However, the challenge of transparency remains as, even though this data is technically available, much of it isn’t indexed, parsed or tagged. This renders finding relevant data a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack.
“You need to know where to look,” James Smith, Rochester’s communications director, told Democrat & Chronicle. “We do a good job of putting lots of information on the city website, but it’s a little inside baseball in knowing where to get it.”
Ultimately, this means that, to find the data you need to drive smart informative decisions, it helps to work with the best. CRS Data is the solution with that offers the most accurate, up-to-date property data across multiple counties, all with an intuitive user interface that makes browsing property data easy. Find listings and FSBOs quickly, evaluate them effectively and give your clients professional presentations with our industry-leading software.