The information is available to anyone interested in digging deep enough into any property.
If you want to invest you take advantage of any and all resources you have. Take ethics out of the picture.
@Andy Iannotti don't ever take ethics out of the picture. That is just plain stupid. You should always be ethical in everything you do in real estate, and in life in general.
Using the knowledge you have is not unethical, it is simply an advantage that you have based on your career. Do you think it would be unethical for a handyman to want to buy a property that he's worked on before? A flipper to keep the best house for his own portfolio? A wholesaler to keep the one with the best numbers in the nicer area? Not at all. Many careers can feed your ability to invest smartly. You happen to get to see a property before the inspection phase, and maybe have good contacts with smoke/fire remediation companies. Don't waste your networks or your advantage.
I agree that it is not unethical. Some things that probably ARE unethical and/or illegal that you should probably keep in the forefront of your mind:
1. Don't use tax payer funded items to do your own investing (i.e. FD phone, fax, email, vehicle) or during shift any time you are engaging in that activity (basically theft)
2. Don't use your position to scare, intimidate or otherwise influence the minds of the people you are working with (abuse of power)
Now I know we see these things at the highest levels of our government but they have legal teams and power to back them. If my local FD chief was an investor and on the up and up, you bet I'd be cool with it as would most of the other citizens you serve. In fact it would be nice if local gov employees were more engaged, as they would understand the problems we as professionals face and help improve the marketplace, either through policy or procedures; making the community more successful in general.
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