In an increasingly litigious world, disclosure has become a critical part of buying and selling residential real estate, particularly if a condominium or apartment complex occupies a natural hazard area. But some methods of outlining hazards such as flood and landslide zones can result in inaccurately drawn reports that can ironically prove to be naturally hazardous to the fiscal health of both the buyer and seller.
Enter Santa Monica-based upstart National Disclosure Authority (NDA) with what it calls the most accurate hazard-mapping process to date. Fusing advances in satellite imagery and aerial photography with its own proprietary geographic information system, NDA has developed a property-mapping process that’s accurate within six inches, says company founder and CEO Sergio Siderman, former president and COO of industry competitor Property I.D. Corp.
NREI: What does a report typically cost and what does it include?
Siderman: Our reports cost $99. When you open one, one of first pages you see is a satellite image of your property. That gives you the peace of mind that you know what you’re looking at and know what we’re measuring against. We show the boundaries and whether it’s in a high-severity fire zone, an earthquake zone, landslide zone or a [dam-break] flood zone or any natural hazard zone that’s mapped by federal, state or local agencies. If an environmental report is needed, it will be added at no charge.
NREI: Why is natural hazard disclosure so important?
Siderman: In a flood zone, for example, a lender is going to require you to get flood insurance. Or when a person buys property in a landslide zone after he thought it wasn’t in a landslide zone, he’ll be able to claim he paid too much for it because he can’t build his dream home there anymore. That’s why we felt we had to guarantee accuracy within 6 inches. Other reports could be off anywhere from 10 feet to a quarter of a mile!
NREI: Who pioneered the technology used for these reports?
Siderman: I created the initial geographic information system while with (Property I.D.) through the effective use of Google Earth technology. Prior to those days, we had researchers poring over maps with t-squares and rulers. But the GIS technology has improved exponentially. We have since perfected the system with NDA.
NREI: Tell us about your company mission.
Siderman: It’s to provide the most thorough and precise disclosure report available on the market and to take no shortcuts. Our entire management team, which consists of the best-known hazard disclosure experts in the country, wanted to go to bed at night knowing we had the best geographic information system out there. We also have a strong inclination toward the environment. That’s why we plant a tree for every paperless report we issue. Eventually, we plan to donate the acreage used for restoration back to the community once it’s been filled with healthy young saplings, and then repeat the cycle. We take green to the extreme and we practice what we preach. In fact, we all drive hybrids.
NREI: Who are your customers and what has their response been thus far?
Siderman: Individuals, sales people, agents and other people involved in buying and selling [residential] property are our customers. Our business has started to snowball. People seem to understand that we know what we’re talking about and they have confidence in us. A lot of them are intrigued with how green we are.
California, with its stricter consumer-protection standards, is a big market for us. The real growth question is, how many other states are going to adopt tougher disclosure standards?