Although the basic concept has been around for decades, GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is gaining more traction across a variety of industries. It can be an especially powerful tool for the commercial real estate sector, and for brokers and appraisers in particular. Enter FuseGIS, which has tailored a platform to these two disciplines, addressing their priorities while layering data to support them.
“We compile data that is geared more toward commercial than residential, to assist in finding deal opportunities for the broker or to be able to underwrite a property and its surrounding competition on the appraisal side,” says André Suissa, MAI, co-founder of FuseGIS.
While the “more visual light” that GIS technology enables data to be seen in applies to single-family residential as well, there are data layers that apply specifically to commercial. “One that really attracts the commercial sector would be zoning, because there are multiple uses involved, while single-family is a little more cut and dried,” Suissa says.
FuseGIS’ platform highlights zoning that’s “homogenous across an entire metro area,” explains Suissa. At the individual property level, “you’re able to immediately link to the land development code, or the code of ordinances related to that particular zoning.
“We also have layers related to jurisdiction, so that you can understand what kind of city or county jurisdiction you have to deal with,” he continues. “We also have a lot of information related to cases and permits, so if there are any changes in zoning or a new subdivision that’s planned, or a new development that’s going to be constructed, we have that information layered in. It’s very important for people in the commercial sector to keep up with the competition and supply side in order to understand if there’s room for their development, or how theirs will compete with what’s out there already.”
Keeping the data up-to-date is a constant process, yet Suissa says it doesn’t all come in on the same timetable. Construction permits are filed on a daily basis, while updates to tax parcels or traffic counts may occur on an annual basis. “It’s our job to keep up with every single change that’s occurring and be able to keep the map refreshed as frequently as possible so that the user is getting the most updated information, no matter where they’re exploring in their metro,” he says.
The platform is useful specifically to brokers and appraisers in different ways. For brokers, says Suissa, “there are plenty of resources available today for them to be able to find deals that are on the market: many different exchanges, MLS, CoStar, all sorts of wonderful data services. Where our system is unique for a broker is to give them the power to filter our data and pull up a multitude of properties that fit their clients’ descriptions of what they’re looking for. So on the buyer side, our brokers have the ability to find off-market deals that match their clients’ needs.”
On the selling side, he continues, “Our map and tool gives the listing broker the opportunity to compile all the information needed from a site perspective to properly list the property for sale, and to give them not only the details of what’s there now but also the information of what could be there.”
An appraiser himself, Suissa says he’s been using the FuseGIS platform on a daily basis. “It helps me go through analyzing my site description and enhancing my highest and best use analysis, and also to pull together the data portions of an appraisal report, which includes the tax analysis, sales history and zoning specifics,” he says.
As the broker has the opportunity to filter the data for off-market deals, the appraiser has the opportunity to filter properties that match their subjects, says Suissa. “They can find potential off-market comparables for their analysis, which they may not be able to find in any of the systems that they use to pull sales. It can give them some idea of what other competing properties are in the area. If they’re doing an appraisal of any complexity and size, they’re more than likely jumping around in not just a single city. So to have all of this information available in one tool is drastically lowering their research time.”
With all of the tools that FuseGIS can provide at present for brokers and appraisers, Suissa says these are still early days. “To really be able to make all of the analytical decisions on behalf of the broker and appraiser requires many, many more data layers to accomplish,” he says. We’ve been trying to determine what data layers are going to be the most pertinent to make better decisions now, and put a hierarchy on that to determine which will be most useful for brokers and appraisers to do their jobs better and find more opportunities.”