Magazine article Real Estate Issues

Geographic Information Systems (GIS): The Location, Location, Location Technology

Magazine article Real Estate Issues

Geographic Information Systems (GIS): The Location, Location, Location Technology

Article excerpt

A geographic information system (GIS) is a set of computerized tools, including both hardware and software, for collecting, storing, retrieving, transforming and displaying spatial data.(1) GIS is essentially a marriage between computerized mapping and data base management systems. Anything that can appear on a map can be encoded into a computer and then compared to anything on any other map, using longitude-latitude coordinates.

Many people think of GIS as a presentation tool. It does, in fact, create high quality maps that communicate considerable amounts of information in an efficient and attention-getting manner. For example, when used to select the optimal site for a major retail facility in a certain sub market, a GIS can simultaneously display the following on the computer monitor in a few minutes:

*all the census tracts in the sub market, with the color of each tract reflecting the number of households and median household income;

*all the arterials, with the traffic volumes listed next to each street segment;

*the sites of all potential competitors, shown as dots, with the size of each dot drawn proportional to the square footage or gross sales of that competitor;

*the locations of any toxic waste sites, flood zones, earthquake faults or other environmental constraints.

The presentation benefits of a GIS notwithstanding, the technology's greatest power is in data assembly and analysis. Using the same example of a major retail facility in a certain sub market, GIS can draw maps identifying all places throughout the nation where the number of households and their incomes exceed a certain threshold, the number of competitors within a five minute driving time is below a certain number and no environmental constraints exist within a one-mile ring. Similarly, when valuing a property it is possible to

*download from a comps service all the recent transactions fulfilling certain criteria;

*have the GIS automatically locate the comps on a street map, listing next to each comp certain critical information (e.g., date and cap rate of the most recent sale);

*point to each comp with the computer's arrow keys or mouse to display a photograph or even a video of the comp; and

*statistically correlate the property-specific information to all the demographic, traffic, competitor and environmental information displayed previously.

*Real estate professionals who utilize the endless possibilities of GIS are retailers, brokers, institutional investment managers and property tax assessors. …

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