by Diane Sullivan, Mapping Specialist

Maps are fascinating.  A well done map can greatly enhance an otherwise sedate client presentation.  In my 8 years at NAI Capital I’ve thoroughly enjoyed creating everything from simple site aerials to detailed demographic studies to assist our brokers in meeting their clients’ geolocation needs.

My primary job is to assist our brokers with the researching and marketing of their sales and listings by creating custom demographic, street and aerial maps for client presentations.    One highly-detailed, custom map our department created was for Fred Encinas, CCIM, MCR, Senior Vice President.  Fred came to NAI Capital several years ago with over three decades of success in the Southern California Real Estate market.  Impressively experienced on “both sides” of the deal as Director of RE for several large, national corporations as well as extensive brokering in both Retail Landlord and Tenant Representation, Fred knows his stuff; he knows the Inland Empire region and he knew his client.  Based on his client’s Site Selection specifications, Fred requested a map showing twelve targeted sites at intersections with custom-defined trade areas around each point, with representations of the client’s competitors and a Daytime or Employee Population Dot Density.  Whew! We can do that.  No problem.

We started by defining the geographic area covered.  Fred’s client was particularly interested in the North-eastern area of the IE so I clipped a screen shot of this region showing the bounding rectangle encompassing the desired area as it would appear in the map.  At this point in the process the broker can see what area will be covered in the map and then extend or reduce it as needed.

Once the geographic area for the map is set, we pinpoint each prospective site intersection through the process of geo-coding, or geo-locating.  We can geocode sites using street addresses, intersections, or more broadly zip codes, cities, etc.  Each of the twelve prospective intersections was given a name and number and a 1 mile radius ring around it.

The client wanted to see where all their competitors were located in the area, so Fred named the closest competitors and I ran a query in InfoUSA Select Phone listing-type database to compile store lists of each of the competitors, then geocoded and color-coordinated them to their brand logos on map’s legend.   Fred does his research and helps his clients determine which demographic variables can best determine future success.  Establishing a demographic profile from current, best-performing stores and comparing how prospective sites match up is a good determining factor for anticipating future viability.  Daytime or Employee Population is the variable this particular client uses as a benchmark in Site Selection, so we determined that a Dot Density representation of this variable would best help drill down to most viable areas.

The next step was to define a custom trade area for each prospective site.  This was accomplished first by zooming in on each 1-mile area on an aerial map.  High resolution aerial imagery allows us to see the populated areas, or “rooftops” versus mountainous, undeveloped and unpopulated areas.  I formatted PDFs of each 8.5 x 11 site map, emailed to Fred for him to print and review with his client.  Together they edit the custom trade areas around each site with a heavy black marker using the 1 mile ring, aerial image, competition and Daytime Population as well as the geographic features of streets and freeways to define each individual trade area for further analysis.  At this point, a broker can drop the edited maps off to me in person, mail them, or scan and return via email.

Using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software, we can create geographically referenced polygons representing the customized trade area boundaries that overlay a map of the entire area.  Each custom boundary is then used as a basis for generating customized demographic reports detailing the statistics within each polygon with all available variables for income, race, ethnicity, age, consumer expenditure; literally thousand of variables are available for analysis.  The demographic data within these client-defined areas is literally extracted cookie-cutter-like from that specific polygon area.

Fred then took it up a notch and asked for us to prioritize the sites into three different levels of interest, color coding the polygons and showing the levels in the map’s legend.   No problem!  We went back in and broke the list into three sections and color-coded them to the map’s legend. The end result is a large map showing custom polygons around each prospective location, with the client’s competitors represented by different-colored markers as well as a dot-density overlay showing the daytime population.

While most of the top national commercial real estate companies offer mapping and demographic reporting services to their brokers, regionally-focused NAI Capital leverages the power of ever-advancing technology in conjunction with solid Broker Market Knowledge to produce comparable, sometimes even better-suited highly-customized products and personalized service that just can’t be mass produced on a national level.

Take a brief tour of some samples of NAI Capital’s Mapping Capabilities.  I would love to know how the use of maps has helped you and your clients.