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GIS as a Platform for Real Estate

CEO Khai Intela
Geographic information science (GIS) offers valuable insights into a wide range of applications, from city planning to space exploration. Although traditionally associated with government agencies, GIS is now making its mark in the private sector...

Geographic information science (GIS) offers valuable insights into a wide range of applications, from city planning to space exploration. Although traditionally associated with government agencies, GIS is now making its mark in the private sector as well. One field where GIS has revolutionized operations is real estate. With its sophisticated tools for analyzing geographic information, GIS has become an indispensable asset for developers, real estate agents, and property owners.

GIS in Real Estate

In the mid-1990s, businesses started recognizing the potential of GIS in real estate. Initially, geographic data was used to streamline tasks for analysts. However, it quickly became apparent that GIS technology had strategic applications. Several real estate companies began leveraging these innovative tools, transforming the industry in the process.

One example is CBRE Group, a commercial real estate giant that employed GIS technology to enhance its brokerage and portfolio management services. By utilizing mapping software, CBRE was able to improve market analyses, strengthening its relationships with clients.

Castle Consulting, based in San Francisco, became the first firm to focus primarily on real estate GIS. They developed software to support property appraisal and portfolio management, paving the way for efficient real estate operations.

Another innovator in the field is GeoSpan, a geospatial software firm from Minnesota. They equipped vans with video capture capabilities and associated the footage with GPS coordinates. This meant that potential clients could view properties remotely, eliminating the need for physical visits.

Over the years, GIS applications in real estate have become more advanced and widespread. By implementing GIS-based management systems, companies and local governments gain access to detailed and accurate information about property boundaries and uses.

Large-Scale GIS Applications in Real Estate

GIS can be adapted to projects of various scales in real estate. One notable example is the Union Pacific Railroad, the second-biggest landholder in the U.S. after the federal government. For over a century, the railroad relied on paper maps to track land purchases and sales. However, these documents became inefficient and difficult to manage. To address this challenge, the company decided to digitize its maps using a GIS platform. This allowed for centralized access to updated records on all their real estate holdings.

This change saved the Union Pacific Railroad significant time and effort in property research. It enabled them to locate obstructions along the railroad, identify excess land for sale, and establish rights-of-way. The GIS platform became an essential tool for the company's real estate department, surpassing their initial expectations.

The Future of GIS and Real Estate

As GIS technology continues to expand, organizations involved in real estate will discover numerous benefits for addressing current property management needs and seizing future opportunities. Many local governments have invested in GIS databases that make it simple to research parcels of land. Buyers and sellers can overlay maps with relevant information about school districts, utilities, retail availability, and more, providing valuable perspective on transactions.

Robust spatial analysis techniques enable firms to evaluate sites, plot marketing plans, and optimize tenant management strategies. By incorporating data from various sources, such as census data and financial history, real estate professionals can accurately assess property value and make predictions about future developments.

As technology advances, geographic information will become even more critical to the business of real estate. The growing availability of data empowers organizations to gain a deeper understanding of the factors that impact property value. With increasingly robust software and automation, decision-makers can act swiftly and seize opportunities in the market.

About USC's GIS Graduate Programs

The University of Southern California (USC) offers a comprehensive selection of GIS programs, including master's degrees and graduate certificates. These programs provide students with leading education in geographic information science. If you're interested in pursuing a career in GIS, USC's GIS programs are an excellent choice.

GIS Master's Degrees:

  • Master of Science in Geographic Information Science and Technology
  • Master of Science in Human Security and Geospatial Intelligence
  • Master of Science in Spatial Data Science
  • Master of Science in Spatial Economics and Data Analysis
  • Master of Arts in Global Security Studies

GIS Graduate Certificates:

  • Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science and Technology
  • Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Intelligence
  • Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Leadership
  • Graduate Certificate in Remote Sensing for Earth Observation

GIS Programs