LMI Census Tracts - How to Search NTREIS for Matches

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Providence Group Realty TREC# 0608931

Special lending programs are available to buyers who seek affordable housing solutions. From Down Payment Assistance programs (grants) to No/Low Down Payment programs offered by both mortgage companies and banks, getting connected with the right lender can open new doors for Buyers who seek to achieve the American Dream of homeownership.

But the lending piece is only part of the puzzle. Loan approval is a 2 part process. The buyer must qualify AND the property must qualify. Property eligibility is often linked to geography, where designated areas (low-to-moderate income census tracts) are incentivized, dating back to the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) initiative.

In rural counties, identifying geographic boundaries of eligibility is an easier task than in metropolitan areas,  where zip codes are numerous and don't directly correlate to census tracts. As of this writing, there is no known automated method of searching for qualified listings in the Dallas area MLS, as NTREIS data does not include census tract.

So, how does an Agent or Buyer narrow the search to view qualified listings?

The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council's (FFIEC) Web Site offers a Census and Demographic Data tool, which can be used to look up address level information for a specific property.

To solve for a buyer's search, first start with building in their core specifications, just as you would for any buyer search (bedroom count, bath count, garage count, age of home, desired features, and any geo attributes like distance from work or isd preference). Know going into this, that before a showing is scheduled, either the Buyer or the Buyer's Agent will need to look up the property to determine whether it qualifies as being in a low or moderate income area. 

Example and Search Steps:

  1. To use this tool, paste the property address in the address bar, and then click on the search button.
  2. Once the property is mapped, click on the "Census Demographic Data" button, and it will display the chart that returns the value for the "Tract Income Level".
  3. The property needs to be in a "Low" or "Moderate" tract to qualify. "Middle" and "Upper" results should be eliminated from the showing list.
  4. Verify address eligibility with the Buyer's Lender prior to extending offer interest.


While there other datasets available for download (such as ProximityOne's ZIP Code to Census Tract Equivalence Table) the ability to create a mappable table is lost due to the overlapping elements of census tract to zip-code. Even if built (which would be a very time-consuming process), property eligibility would still need to be independently verified. So for the time being, it is simply more efficient to start with a core search, and then use the available tools to fact-check addresses prior to scheduling a showing.

Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Prop. Mgr, Wenatchee, WA

Hi Amanda,
This is really interesting.  I'm going to have to do some perusing of the site. 

Dec 28, 2018 11:56 AM
Hannah Williams
HomeStarr Realty - Philadelphia, PA
Expertise NE Philadelphia & Bucks 215-820-3376

Amanda Thomas  wonderful post with lots of useful information  -- had to share this post

Happy  Healthy & Prosperous

New Year in 2019


Dec 28, 2018 02:34 PM
Debb Janes
Nature As Neighbors - Camas, WA
Put My Love of Nature At Work for You

Very useful post and it does take a bit of home work to make sure both the buyer and the property are eligible. Thanks Amanda and Happy New Year. 

Dec 29, 2018 07:16 AM
Bruce Kunz
C21 Solid Gold Realty, Brick, NJ, 732-920-2100 - Howell, NJ
REALTOR®, Brick & Howell NJ Homes for Sale

Thanks for sharing this Amanda Thomas.  I'm not familiar with this FFIEC information but will be taking a look at it going forward.

Thanks to Carol Williams for including your post in the SCS list.

Hope you have a Happy New Year!

Dec 30, 2018 06:17 PM