As part of The Lens’ campaign to make public information more public, we’ve added a new tool to The Vault: property sales.


This tool makes property sales in Orleans Parish fully searchable by text and — my favorite part — by location. It’s never been easier to see which properties have been purchased near you, and for how much.

The tool enables advanced searches as well. For instance, you can find out how many properties have sold for more than $1 million since July 4.

Like the other records in The Vault, property transfers are public information, but they’re not easily accessible. We get the information every day, make it all searchable and present it on a map.

Our search goes back to February and we’re adding more sales every day. To learn more about what’s included in this search, read our explainer.

The property sales work is the result of months of hard work by Tom Thoren, The Lens’ open data reporter. Along with the rest of our open data initiative, it’s funded in part by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

This is the third data set to be added to The Vault, our open-data initiative; the first two were city of New Orleans contracts and city employee salaries.

Contracts search expanded and easier to use

We’ve also responded to feedback about our city government contracts search. It’s now easier to use, allows for more advanced searches and enables linking and sharing of contracts.

Several people have said asked how they can download contracts. It’s dead simple to do that now.

The biggest advancement: You can now search for contracts by the names of company officers. So if you don’t know the name of the company, but know John Smith is the president, just click “advanced search” and select his name from the menu.

We’ve done this by linking the firms listed on the contracts to state government records on Louisiana companies. We’re still working on this part, so it doesn’t work for every company. But it’s ready for you to start using and it will get better as we link more companies.

Abe Handler, The Lens’ news technologist, did all the work you see on the contracts search.

Tell us what works, what doesn’t

We’d love to hear how you’re using The Vault. For comments and questions about the property sales application, contact Tom Thoren. For the contracts app, contact Abe Handler.

What do you want to see next?

Do you want us to post a set of public records online? Let us know.

Sponsor The Vault

If you’d like to sponsor The Vault or any of the services within it, please contact Anne Mueller.

This post was updated after publication to describe how far back the search goes. (Sept. 19, 2014)

Steve Myers

Steve Myers was editor of The Lens. Before joining the staff in 2012, Myers was managing editor of Poynter Online, the preeminent source of news and training about the journalism industry. At Poynter,...