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From the L.A. Times:

When Sean O’Toole decided to make his fortune in foreclosures, he figured he would have five “partners”: death, disease, divorce, drugs and denial….

O’Toole capitalized on the five Ds in 2002, when the real estate market was taking off and foreclosures were few and far between. Rather than compete with thousands of speculators flipping new homes, he scoured property records to find distressed houses. Over the next few years he bought and sold 152 such properties.

Now, as foreclosures multiply across California and bargain-hunting investors are starting to snap them up, O’Toole has stopped trading foreclosed houses and is instead selling a sixth D: data.

O’Toole, 40, founded the website last year. The site, he said, lists every default, auction and foreclosure in California. Such information is crucial to investors seeking properties to buy, and before Internet listing services such as emerged in recent years, the information often required a personal visit to county records offices.

Rather than join the rush of those mining for gold in distressed real estate, O’Toole has set himself up as Levi Strauss once did. Instead of selling jeans to prospectors, though, he is selling foreclosure data to would-be buyers.

With partners like those, O’Toole seems less of a Levi Strauss and more of a Sam Zell.

Sean O’Toole’s got the details on California foreclosures
Peter Y. Hong
Los Angeles Times
June 8, 2008