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Several Census Bureau-Powered Tools Help Realtors and Homebuyers Navigate Real Estate Market

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When people begin house hunting, they want to know how close the real estate they’re considering is to their jobs, schools, grocery stores, public transportation, hospitals and other services.

Aware of this, real estate agents have incorporated demographic and economic Census Bureau statistics into their marketing strategies to give homebuyers all the information they’re seeking.

Redfin’s Job Opportunity Tool also uses Census Bureau and other government data to show the total number of workers by occupation in a metro area as well as their median salaries, education level and how many work remotely.

Census data are free and available not just to real estate professionals but individual buyers and sellers. Anyone can access the demographic and economic statistics the Census Bureau collects and produces to paint a complete and up-to-date profile of neighborhoods with homes for sale.

This article, which focuses on the real estate industry, is part of an occasional series that highlights how businesses and partners use Census Bureau data.

The real estate industry has taken census data and created their own tools.

Among the census data many real estate companies are using: the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program, most notably its Origin-Destination Employment Statistics dataset (accessed through the OnTheMap application which identifies where people live and work. The new LODES 8.0 data includes 2021 data and has been updated to adjust all historical data into 2020 census blocks.

OnTheMap contains 2002-2021 employment data for most states (except for Alaska from 2017 to 2021 and Arkansas and Mississippi from 2019 to 2021).

How the Real Estate Industry Uses Census Data

During a Census Bureau webinar, real estate brokerage firm Redfin Corporation demonstrated how it used a combination of private and public data — including LODES, the American Community Survey (ACS), Census Bureau population estimates and Bureau of Labor statistics — to develop the Opportunity Score, a data tool based on the Walkability Score that helps Americans find affordable housing with short commutes to jobs.  

“One of our goals was really to help people understand job accessibility,” said Taylor Marr, lead economist for Redfin. “For any address you can look up and see … how accessible via a car-free commute is each property or house to good-paying jobs.”

The Redfin Opportunity Score, available in more than 350 U.S. cities, is a rating from zero to 100 that measures the number of jobs within a 30-minute commute from a given address. The higher the score, the greater the access to nearby jobs. ​​​​​​​For example, the White House has an opportunity score of 100. That means there are a lot of jobs within 30 minutes (without a car) of where the White House is located.

Source: Alina Ptaszynski 2016, Opportunity Score, Redfin News, December 2023

Redfin’s Job Opportunity Tool also uses Census Bureau and other government data to show the total number of workers by occupation in a metro area as well as their median salaries, education level and how many work remotely.

Here’s how other real estate companies use Census Bureau data:

  • Zillow merged rent and LODES data to gauge the housing supply and demand impact of the tech boom in Seattle, Washington — and found that rent increased 17% from 2011 to 2015.

  • Remax used ACS data to look at homeownership by race and ethnicity, particularly among the Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population. Its research showed that the racial gap in homeownership rate narrowed as income rose but the lag of homeownership among all other races in comparison to White Americans persisted.


Census Data Tools on Real Estate

The Census Bureau has many other tools that real estate companies can use to help them understand their markets, such as Census Business Builder (CBB v. 5.4).

The “Create Report” button on the Detailed View of CBB shows “Housing Characteristics,”  like home ownership rates, vacancy rates and average house values.

The CBB also provides socioeconomic characteristics such as the percentage of people employed, average income and median household income in any given area.

CBB also incorporates data from Esri on the spending habits of prospective homebuyers, such as how much they spend on household services, travel, dining out, and transportation.

Earlene K.P. Dowell is a supervisory program analyst and Adam Grundy a supervisory statistician in the Census Bureau’s Economic Management Division.

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Page Last Revised - January 31, 2024
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