After nearly five years, it looks like I’ve hit a major snag with http://propertize.ca.
Propertize.ca, in case you didn’t know, is a website that I created to make it easier to view and compare property tax assessments in New Brunswick.
A brief history of Propertize.ca
In 2008, my wife and I purchased our first home. The following year, I received a property assessment tax letter, letting us know our assessment and amount due. Also included were instructions around appealing the assessment. The issue was – I had no idea if I should appeal it or not.
Well, it turned out that SNB provides a basic application to look up assessments: https://www.planet.snb.ca/ANONDB/anon002$.startup
The site is functional if you have a PID or PAN; but, searching by address can be painful (to say the least). It’s also very tedious to lookup and compare multiple properties at once – something I needed to do as many homes in my subdivision would be comparable (for assessment purposes).
I saw a better way – both to search by address and retrieve multiple results into a single view to make it easier to determine if your assessment was reasonable.
In 2009, a very rough version of this tool was live for friends and family to use (if you remember, it wasn’t very pretty to look at – but it worked).
In March 2011, it was featured on the front-page of the Telegraph-Journal and went viral. Since then, people across the country have used it to compare assessments (for validation or appeal) and when looking to purchase property (to understand trends and tax levies). Media in NB have used it to find oddities in assessments – especially when dealing with industrial sites, or strange changes. Even staff at SNB use the site to quickly lookup information!
It’s been consistently updated to be easier to use, quicker at finding results, and responsive (works nicely on mobile/tablet). I’ve also been tracking data in my own database so that historical comparisons can be made. None of this can be done on the government website. Did I mention, it also runs 24/7? Try using the government site early in the morning.
It’s become something many people rely on to make informed decisions when purchasing property or deciding to appeal their assessments; but, this could all stop.
As much as I try to reduce needing to scrape data from SNB (outside of the new assessments initially being added each March – which is quite intense), it is still necessary.
Why? Because houses keep selling (new recent sales data is available) and sometimes assessments change (after appeal or other reasons).
To reduce network strain, I limit queries going at SNB to 30,000 per day, and I do it in the early morning starting at 6:30am and it usually finished up by 8:20am.
Unfortunately, it looks like everything changed on December 18, 2013. As of that date, I could no longer access the planet SNB website from my house (even though it remains accessible for everyone else) – my IP is blocked.
I’ve been able to talk to individuals at SNB who have let me know that new networking software in now in place to detect heavy usage and stop it, which is why I am blocked.
They will try to unblock my IP (not unblocked yet); however, as I am still trying to scrape each day, it will be blocked again.
Internal discussions are taking place around this – specifically around the networking side of things; but, no decisions have been made.
The ideal solution would be to make the assessment data (for each year) public and accessible in an open format file that can be downloaded for offline use.
No more network issues.
Let’s face it – this information is all publicly available now (well, at least for you) – so what’s the harm?
I’m not holding my breath on this plan though. I’ve been making this argument for years.
I believe the quick fix is to unblock my IP and specifically allow me to continue scraping as I have been doing for years now. I have made big improvements to reduce network strain, and the site (to my knowledge) has never been impacted from my scraping.
How you can help!
While nothing has been decided yet, I am still currently blocked (and will almost certainly remain blocked – or be re-blocked – due to my scraping).
I think the best course of action at this point is to raise the issue as much as possible to ensure that I am unblocked and remain so!
Note: This site is not run for profit and is free for anyone to use.
The site is likely saving the government money. Many people are able to easily use this site and find the information they need. Those that can’t email me for help looking it up.
I end up providing free support services AND building/maintain a site that anyone can use (because it’s so easy to search).
Many people also see that their assessment is fair (compared to other comparable properties) and choose not to appeal – saving government time/money.
Please share this post on social media, write to your newspaper, email your MLA, call up SNB, whatever you can do help resolve this issue.
The clock is ticking – there are now less than two months before the new 2014 assessments come out, and at this point – they won’t be on http://propertize.ca.