GIS Tech News #1316 Jan, 2006
Geospatial data boosts real-estate listings
Location, location, location! It’s the hyperbolic mantra of the real-estate industry. The phrase has been bandied about so often by so many agents that it has become a banal expression, inviting more frowns than nods. That doesn’t, however, invalidate the nugget of wisdom buried in it. Why the triple play? According to RealEstateABC.com, a resource for homebuyers and sellers, the emphasis is justified because location is “extremely important to the resale value of your home.”
RealEstateABC.com points out that the desirability of a location, or a neighborhood, is linked to economic stability, crime statistics and access to government and social services, such as libraries, fire stations, schools and community centers. Proximity to grocery stores, gas stations, dry cleaners, convenience stores, major traffic routes and mass transit should also be taken into account.
The old-fashioned approach is for a potential homebuyer to inspect a neighborhood on foot, accompanied by a local agent who has compiled a dossier on the property. The new approach is to let the buyer browse an agent’s online listing, maintained and updated via MLS (Multiple-Listing Service). It lets a buyer identify affordable properties, inspect exteriors and narrow the list of homes of interest. The more comprehensive the information, the more articulate the list.
Now, thanks to the rise of affordable aerial imagery and digital maps, the buyer also gets to zoom into the rooftops of his potential neighbors and figure out how many blocks he or she will need to walk to get to the nearest grocery store.GlobeXplorer, eNeighborhoods Invite You to an Open House
GlobeXplorer, one of the largest geospatial content providers, has been quietly facilitating real-estate transactions for buyers and sellers who may not even know of its existence. “We like to stay a little bit behind the scene,” explains GlobeXplorer CEO Rob Shanks, “because we’re in the business of powering others’ businesses.”
The large repertoire of digital maps and aerial photographs from GlobeXplorer contains critical real-estate information, such as land parcels, population, average income, crime statistics, landslides, recent sales values, assessed values, even assessors’ numbers. The company recently began providing aerial imagery for eNeighborhoods, which supplies home and neighborhood information to real-estate professionals.
“Commercial real-estate professionals have been using aerial photography for 30-40 years,” Shanks reflects. “They use it for site selection, environmental assessment and insurance analysis. With the advent of the Internet, high-quality aerial images that are available online became very popular. We were among the very first online storefronts to offer a broad range of aerial images. That’s when we saw tremendous growth in real estate, both commercial and residential.”
GlobeXplorer’s data-rich aerial content and eNeighborhoods’ own market statistics serve as the basis for eNeighborhoods’ product suite, which lets agents integrate site photos and neighborhood reports into their listings.
Google Your New Neighborhood
“Google Earth has been terrific for our company,” says Shanks. “The more people see these images, the better selection and quality they desire. That’s where we come in. It really raises the awareness of the broad availability of this type of content. GlobeXplorer has a product suite called ImageAtlas, which contains very high quality real-estate imagery and information. It’s very popular with general consumers and professionals alike. We have thousands of subscribers. It gives them access to free data [such as those available through the free version of Google Earth] and also high-quality, high-resolution data, through a pull-down menu.”
One-time purchases of maps from ImageAtlas range from $19.95 (8” x 10” print) to $34.95 (large digital download), but subscribers pay less: $15.96 to $27.96. Subscription costs $29.95 per month or $249.95 per year.
Currently, ImageAtlas provides top-down views of locations, but 3D rotation and angular viewing capabilities are on the way. Shanks predicts that such features will eventually find their way into the real-estate market, allowing potential homebuyers to take virtual strolls through different locations. “It’ll appeal to a broader audience when people don’t have to download large plug-ins and install software to do that. As technology advances, these [rotation and fly-through] features will become accessible simply though a Web browser. We have begun offering such 3D features to select customers.”
If you’re intrigued by ImageAtlas, Shanks suggests you take a look at its more advanced sister product, Property Analyst. The trial version of Property Analyst lets you query a specific property in the San Francisco area and find out who owns and manages it. It also lets you overlay the parcel lines on the property, see its assessed value, run reports of comparable sales, find out when it was built, measure parcel size and distances, see number of bedrooms, overlay flood maps and so on.
The Property Analyst interface has a link to Google Earth, so if you want to take a virtual stroll across the Golden Gate Park, you can launch into 3D view at the click of a button. GlobeXplorer’s tabulated data tells you how many vehicle thefts have occurred in an area, the ethnic makeup of the population in the area, whether a landslide has been triggered there during the last El Niño and much more. It’s just about everything a homebuyer could ask for, except perhaps where to get a low-interest home loan.Bird’s-eye View of AirPhotoUSA
In September 2005, GlobeXplorer acquired 100% interest in AirPhotoUSA, also a content provider to the real-estate industry. “AirPhotoUSA has been one of our largest content partners for well over five years,” says Shanks. “Both companies decided they need the businesses of each other to grow, so it’s an understandable merger.”
GlobeXplorer’s past and present customers include ESRI, Autodesk, MapInfo, CoStar, Site To Do Business, Rapattoni, eNeighborhoods, First American, Fidelity and MapQuest. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Stewart Information Services, a global real-estate information provider.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kenneth Wong is a former editor of Cadence magazine. He explores innovative use of technology and its implications in GIS Tech Trends and in Cadalyst magazine’s PLM Strategies column. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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