Monday, September 6, 2010

Geographic Information Systems and investing

I remember seeing ArcView GIS being used as an example in B-School to show how GIS systems are very useful for analyzing business problems. As I get ready for my next purchase I have been thinking about how I could leverage GIS technology to analyze properties and make profitable investments.

In the B-School demo it showed how Home Depot made their decision to place their next store. (As we know in business location, location, location... which is extremely true for real estate) The map that was shown was for things like income levels, traffic patterns, and proximity of population compared to the closest Rona store. From using GIS data they predicted that by placing the next Home Depot very strategically they could basically slice into Rona's marketshare... basically sandwiching them between two Home Depots. It was a very intriguing visual display of how GIS technology is used.

Now ArcView is a very complex program and I was not a GIS major in school =) Thing is I did find Google Earth has a lot of what I was looking for in a GIS system. You can even create your own layers using Spreadsheet mapper... like a layer for all MLS listings... another for all rentals.

I've just been doing manual entries for the moment. My current mapping strategy:

Translucent Polygons - map out specific areas/divisions/suburbs in a city. Green for Good, Red for bad

Folder of Placemarks for Rentals
Sub folder with number of bedrooms from bachelor to 3+
In each sub-folder placemarks and in the descriptions rent and other information
Colour coded based on rent in $100 increments (so $800 dollar would be yellow say, $900 would be light orange)
- This allows you to quickly see average rents in the city visually... you can also check on and off the number of bedrooms to see the rents of say just 2 bedroom rentals if you're looking at properties that are 2 bedroom.

Folder of Placemarks for MLS listings
Again same subfolders
colour coded placemarks based on List price in $10K increments.
- Again this allows you to visually see the average costs of properties.

By combining these two pieces of information... rent and price you can easily spot the areas with the most potential. If you also had access to crime rates, average incomes, etc you can refine your view even further.

Anyways I am just playing with it for now. Manually entering everything in does take a tremendous amount of time so at the moment it's just for experimenting sake... but I could see someone like a realtor with access to an MLS feed automating this and having it fed into a GIS system... then taking statscan data and data provided from the city and also pumping it in. Someone with some decent GIS knowledge could have a very refined tool for real estate investment. Maybe could even charge a subscription to the map for searching =)

I know I would probably subscribe at the right price ;)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reading your "local" newspaper

Been reading how it is very useful to keep to the pulse of the local city or community you're investing or planning to invest in. You get to know quickly of new developments on public transit or when a big company might be moving to town, etc.

Of course the reverse is true. You get to hear about plant closings and the general vibe of a city by what is in the news (rising crime rates, natural disasters...)

I am investing in Regina so the Leader-Post is quite a good newspaper to read daily. Finding things out like new railway hubs, BHP's Potash Corp bid, even just very local economic studies like vacancy rates, average wage increases, average rents... seem to come up fairly frequently in stories. I also check Real estate that's for sale and also rental listings to get a feel for rental rates in various areas.

I've come across a company called that has 1400+ newspapers from around the world online. You can purchase editions at like a buck each or subscribe on a monthly basis at $29.95 US for all newspapers.

But for a more Canadian feel CanWest has quite a digital package using PressDisplay's technology... I of course am subscribed to Leader-Post Digital... They have a 21 day trial if you wanted to just check it out. It allows you access to 11 regional newspapers (Leader-Post, Star-Phoenix, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, The Gazette, The Province, Vancouver Sun, Windsor Sun, Times Colonist) for a low monthly fee or increasing savings for a 3, 6 or 12 month subscription (not much savings... I would suggest the monthly route)

$9.99 a month and you get 11 different newspapers daily... of course read what you want... but even a regular subscription is not that cheap. And this digital format really makes it easy to read your "local" papers of all the cities you are investing in. =)