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Tracking home prices goes big business

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By The Orange County Register
Saturday, April 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The dramatic collapse and recovery of home prices in recent years has stoked interest in the fate of housing, cultivating new fans for wonky price indexes formerly tracked mostly by the slide-rule set.

A company that provides much of that data has just completed a $750 million shopping spree, making it the 800-pound gorilla of real estate numbers.

In addition to producing its own monthly price index, CoreLogic of Irvine, Calif., owns two other leading brands: The Case-Shiller home price indices and DataQuick Information Systems.

But the acquisition binge included much more than home-price trackers.

CoreLogic bought a leading provider of building replacement costs, two operations that track flood zone locations and a firm that forecasts disaster risks for property owners around the globe.

The combined operations give CoreLogic the ability to sell clients information about almost any property's past, present and future, said Olumide Soroye, CoreLogic's managing director for information solutions.

“This really is about a lot more than just the (home price) indices,” Soroye said. “It's about the gold standard of data we can offer the industry on properties and their life cycle.”

The acquisitions enhance the databases and analytical tools CoreLogic already sells. Those include technology to detect fraud and provide information on real estate transactions, mortgages, collateral, payment histories and property locations and features.

The firm's 10 biggest clients — mostly top banks — account for 29 percent of its revenue, the company has reported in public filings. Other clients include mortgage lenders and brokers, investors, real estate agents, insurance companies, property managers and government-sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae.

Last year, CoreLogic generated $1.3 billion in revenue, $591 million from its data and analytics division.

As money from services for mortgage lenders declines amid rising interest rates, CoreLogic is trying to increase revenue from the data and analytics side of its business.

“Builders and developers are interested. Lenders are interested. Hedge funds are interested,” observed Bill McBride, author of Calculated Risk, a housing and finance blog followed by economists. “Clearly it has to provide good revenue for them. That's a big part of their business.”

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