Log onto Google Maps and you can probably see a street-level view of your neighborhood. BuildZoom, an online mapping site, peers even deeper into Santa Clarita homes and businesses – it publishes information about building permits and displays a map that shows the location of each worksite. Santa Clarita is one of about 500 cities nationwide that BuildZoom features on its site. The San Francisco-based company publishes permits issued for remodeling, solar panel installation, bathroom and kitchen remodeling, roofing and other projects. The goal is to make it easier to find reliable contractors who do good quality work for reasonable rates. Jack Cookson, a data analyst for BuildZoom, said the company covers cities where information is easier to come by. All of the data published on BuildZoom is public information, but some municipalities still do business by fax rather than with more modern, speedier communication methods. “Santa Clarita government does a good job of making the data accessible,” says Cookson, who adds that the quantity of information available here is better than in many communities. “They have data on permits going back to 1979 and before,” he said. Collecting information Property owners can look at information about work done to their neighbors’ property and sometimes learn which contractor did the job. A random search of the site reveals that many Santa Clarita listings don’t contain contractors’ names, however. Cookson says that BuildZoom is always working to update the site’s information, and some listings will contain more complete information at a later time. Contractors who use the site receive tools to upload project photos and additional information about their business, and they can connect with new clients on BuildZoom. The site’s home improvement forum lets property owners get advice from contractors, while contractors can build credibility and improve their BuildZoom ranking by answering homeowners’ questions. Property owners who want repairs, renovations and other building work done can connect with contractors who can handle the projects. Contractors receive leads for free, and if the contractor lands the job, BuildZoom gets a 2.5 percent commission from the contractor. Cookson said that BuildZoom makes good matches by analyzing its data. Customer reviews, the amount of repeat work contractors receive over a given timeframe as well as customer recommendations help determine if a contractor is doing good work and is the right one for a job. “If a contractor has done 10 bathroom remodels, it’s a good bet that the contractor is well able to handle a similar job,” he said. Not only is it a handy device for soliciting contractor bids, BuildZoom can be used as a research tool, too. “It’s great for people buying new homes,” said Cookson. “They can make sure that work was done and was done properly.” Click here to visit BuildZoom’s Santa Clarita page.