The Importance of Mapping and Location Data to Real Estate

I think keeping an eye on how the real estate industry uses spatial technology  is important. That’s because the real estate industry remains on the cutting edge of using mapping and location data to serve customers, manage information and analyze trends. Other industries look to real estate for insight into where location technology will go next.  Real estate is leading the way in showing us how everyone, not just GIS experts, could begin  “thinking in maps” for everyday business.

Some of the most recent trends in real estate predict ways other business sectors could begin to utilize mapping.

  • Mapping has gone mainstream and is here to stay for real estate. In the early days, online real estate, like many other business sectors, started using spatial technology by putting points on a map. Today, property sites, portals and MLSs have shed their mapping training wheels and are going beyond mere points on a map to offer more advanced spatial features and interrelated geo-information. The future is in giving consumers many different data options and allowing them to combine them on a map to answer their own questions. Beyond the obvious consumer benefit of better decision making, sites benefit from this interactive mapping because it more deeply engages users, resulting in a more favorable consumer experience and ultimately return visits to the site.
  • The map is moving from an afterthought to front and center in the search experience. Many real estate sites have moved maps to their front pages. We’re excited to see that maps are being fully integrated into the search experience, because we know that consumers can understand information more intuitively and more completely when it is displayed spatially. More than 80 percent of all data has a spatial component, meaning it can be tied to a specific point on the earth’s surface. Once people see how useful it is to see and use data in a location format, they want more of it.
  • Consumer expectation for location information is growing and changing. The real estate market, better than any other, demonstrates the power of hyperlocal information.  There has been an explosion in applications for real estate data, but the key theme to them all is allowing users to find a location on a map and all of the relevant decision-making data sets (for example crime stats, school district, neighborhood, parcel boundaries, property values) in one place. Consumers want to review properties for sale in specific local neighborhoods and read reviews by other buyers and sellers. I think online site Trulia is doing a great job of giving its site visitors the type of hyperlocal data they want, detailing listing, price and sale trends by zipcodes, pointing out the differences in various neighborhoods, and discussing the relative value of locations.
  • People want to create their own spatial data. If you need more evidence that consumers want spatial technology, look to the explosion of geo-data being created on a daily basis. It’s now common to see people post property, restaurant, and neighborhood reviews, geo-tag photos and social media posts, and even check-in at locations and view their friends’ locations in real-time. In real estate, buyers and sellers are also rating their agents, sharing maps and location information through Facebook and other social media, and offering advice to the general market based on their experience. Consumers have found their voice and want to tie it to a location.
  • Users want to interact with their maps. When online mapping first took off, businesses and end users were excited by their ability to look at a location on a static map. Maps for most part were essentially pretty pictures. But in the past few years, we’ve all gone much further. Now we want our maps to be dynamic and expect them to help us find additional information, answer new questions, draw new conclusions, and interact with data in new ways. We want to be able to choose exactly the attributes displayed on the map by selecting from different sets of data.  Further, because there are so many real estate sites these days, they need to differentiate themselves by offering their users maps that are more interactive and that allow users to customize the search and analysis experience to their unique needs.. Spatial technology is perfect for this, since with mapping it’s easy to make data interactive and to combine disparate data into a common view. Even more exciting, with today’s advanced spatial technology we can display trends over time in an easy to understand animations, yielding far greater insights than a spreadsheet or static map could ever provide. View a video showing trend mapping.
  • The cloud makes real estate mapping easier. The best news is that rise of cloud computing makes it easier than ever before for real estate companies to leverage location data and add mapping features to their sites. A decade ago they would have had to source the data themselves and painstakingly build spatial applications from scratch.  But with today’s ever-increasing number of APIs, developers can quickly and inexpensively create robust mapping applications. Even better, the cloud gives companies more time to devote to innovating new and better uses for mapping.

Even if you are not in the real estate business, start paying attention to the changing use of spatial technology in this leading-edge business sector. To me, it’s a clear sign that mapping is becoming mainstream and will grow in importance as a key business tool across many sectors.

If you’d like to learn more about the ways mapping and location data are being used by the real estate industry, view our recent webinar.

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