Panel at NYU’s Schack Institute: “Big Data Will Transform Real Estate”

At a Thursday conference held at New York’s Kimmel Center by the Schack Institute of Real Estate, industry heavyweights debated how “big data” will impact on the real estate industry. Big data refers to the collection of large amounts of highly complex information. Experts agree that it will change the rules of the real estate game.

New York, NY. February 23, 2013//- Last Thursday, the Center for the Sustainable Built Environment of NYU’s Schack Institute of Real Estate hosted its third Annual Conference on Sustainable Real Estate in front of a packed audience. The conference carried the title “Big Data and Disruptive Innovation: Is the Real Estate Industry Next?” Constantine Kontokosta from the Center for the Sustainable Built Environment introduced the conference participants to the topic by explaining innovative ways data is created and used: Imagine using a noise meter app on your smartphone to see how loud your prospective neighbors are going to be.

But on a larger scale, Kontokosta showed how big data changes investors’ approach to sustainability. He said that Hurricane Sandy demonstrated the need for efficiency and resiliency in housing and hence the need to be able to measure such values: “You can’t improve what you can’t measure.”

New Buildings less energy efficient than 1930s masonry

His team at Schack looked into energy efficiency data from CoStar and from public records available under Local Law 84. They found that, contrary to popular belief, newer buildings are not necessarily more energy efficient than old ones at all. The survey showed that masonry buildings from the 1930s outperformed most newer buildings in terms of energy costs. He said he was confident that such data will incentivize property managers to implement changes to reduce their costs.

Trulia’s chief economist, Jed Kolko, explained in his keynote address that volume, velocity, variety and veracity are all important advantages of big data. He added that it’s really speed that makes all the difference.

Kolko pointed out that big data enables people to create statistical reports within seconds, as opposed to such classical industry benchmarks as the Sandard & Poor’s Case—Shiller Home Price Index. If big data is supplemented with appropriate dashboard functionality, he said, it allows users “to go granular and beautifully visualize this information in real time.”

One conclusion Trulia has been able to draw from user’s search patterns and home listing was that most people base their choice of neighbor hood on three decisive factors: crime rates, the reputation of local schools, and the time it takes to get to work. Such information, Kolko said, is valuable for brokers who can target their listings to those who might be interested. But investors can also make more informed decisions thanks to Trulia’s data. Kolko said that Trulia’s records on prices, construction, sales, foreclosures, vacancies, and inventories indicate that the housing market has recovered 52 percent since the downturn: “What should be up is up, and what should be down is down.”

Supporting marketing efforts with real time reports

Like Trulia, Sequent Systems is a tech company that transforms big data into actionable information for its users. Sequent however focuses on the marketing and sales process of real estate transactions. Driven by inventory data, the software solution Sequent Enterprise lets developers and marketers of urban infill residential real estate create custom reports on just about any question with just a few clicks: How many units have been sold, which ones had showings, what’s the average price they sold for, what commissions are due, etc…

Sequent Systems’s other landmark software, EZ Coordinator offers similar advantages for agents, brokers and transaction coordinators of single-family home transactions. “It’s data that drives real estate transactions,” said David Lester, Founder and CEO of Sequent Enterprise. “You’ll want to know buyer and seller contact details for a start. But you also want to see all interactions you had with them; ideally you’ll even know their birthday,” he added. And then there is a need to manage more data such as appraisals and commissions. “The better you handle your data, the more you can focus on selling,” explained Lester.

Using data to update archaic laws

Apart from valuating buildings, making broad economic statements and optimizing transactions, data also has the potential to influence the legislative process. Chris Corcoran from New York City’s data analytics office said that open data can support pushes to abolish outdated laws. He used the ban on the use of residential apartments in New York City as a case in point: “You have violated New York City law,” he told those who raised their hands when he asked the audience if anyone had used Airbnb before. He said the city is already making a lot of its real estate statistics available to the public and plans to publish even more numbers online.

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About Sequent Systems:

Sequent Systems has been at the forefront of cloud based real-estate transaction management since it first launched its landmark Sequent Enterprise product, now used by condo developers and marketers world-wide. The company was founded in 2002 by real estate professionals with decades of industry experience. More recently, Sequent Systems is also servicing the single-family home sale market with their latest real estate transaction management tool, EZ Coordinator.

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Contact: David Lester | 415-308-3304 |