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Wall Street's Single-Family Home Grab, Phoenix: How We Analyzed The Data

By Law360 staff · 2022-10-17 13:05:16 -0400 ·

Identifying the corporate owners of single-family homes in Phoenix involved the work of several Law360 data analysts and reporters over several months.

Using as inspiration the public toolkit provided by the investigative reporting team at The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer, which was aided by funding from the Pulitzer Center, Law360 used "snapshot in time" property ownership data provided by Arizona's Maricopa County Assessor's Office on Aug. 11, 2022.

Law360 analyzed data of Phoenix properties classified by the county as detached single-family residential, and only properties that were used as primary residences. Secondary homes and similar properties, as well as "build to rent" developments, which the assessor does not classify as single units, were excluded from the analysis.

Identifying the subsidiary businesses and their parent corporation for each of the resulting 41,000 properties took a combination of machine and manual work. Law360 first defined the subsidiary investors in single-family rental properties as those whose name occurred more than once in Maricopa County records of single-family home rental properties in Phoenix, and whose name included at least one of a list of commonly used keywords in the creation of a business, such as LLC, LP or Inc. Owners with names that include the keywords "Trust," "Living," or "Revocable" were excluded from the count of corporate owners, since some families own their homes through trusts.

That list of subsidiaries was cleaned up, and then each entry was traced back to a corporate parent using databases including Open Corporates, as well as reporter-driven investigations of individual owner names and listed owner addresses.

When all the parent company holdings were combined, Law360 created the list of the top 25 corporate owners from those that owned at least 0.1% — or 41 properties — of the city's single-family rental housing stock.

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