PropTech (property technology) is a collective term used to describe nay technology used in the real estate space. From software and hardware to materials or manufacturing, PropTech has been helping real estate professionals deliver better results for the past almost two decades.
In the early 2000s, the internet began to rise with it came the digitization of information. Traditional print started to be replaced in every sector, including property listings and most property-related data. Companies like GeoData Plus had a big impact on how real estate agents access the information they need on a daily basis.
We had the opportunity to talk to Erik Wind, President of GeoData Plus about the company’s journey since its inception in 2000, how PropTech evolved since he got in the industry and, of course, how can it help out commercial real estate professionals.
Q:Tell us a bit about your background and your journey through the real estate tech industry.
Prior to starting at GeoData Plus in 2002, my professional background was entirely real estate and finance, and my academic background was computer science. GeoData Plus was the perfect opportunity to bring those two areas together for me. Over the years I’ve found that the most successful people in PropTech were ones that had legitimate expertise in both. I’ve seen many brilliant tech professionals without real estate experience come into the industry with tremendous eagerness, looking to apply their bias and experience gained in other industries toward real estate. It’s humbling enough when you do have the real estate experience, when you don’t, it’s even tougher.
For me, I find myself most “in the zone” when I am spending a reasonable amount of time studying and keeping track of both the latest technology and real estate trends. The introverted technology side of me just wants to sit in my office all day and work with my dev team. The practical side remembers that I need to be out there, interacting with customers when I can, working to discover what problems our customers are facing that we can solve.
Q: Could you tell us more about the journey of GeoData Plus over the years?
GeoData Plus started as a desktop application for tech savvy real estate appraisers and brokers in the year 2000. It actually required 4 CD ROM discs to install! That sounds archaic, but keep in mind that when we first started out, so much real estate data was still on microfiche or only available if you went to town hall. This was pretty cutting edge. The program provided mostly tax assessor data and deeds for Long Island and New York City. The server was located in the basement or the garage.
Over time, we changed and improved in many different ways. Early on, we replaced the desktop application with a web application and then, of course, improved it so that it worked on mobile devices. We added more data. We still have tax assessor data and deeds, but now we also have MLS content, mortgages, pre-foreclosures, auctions, flood zones, sound ratings, reported income/expense sheets, and so many other public and private data points all brought together. Geographically we expanded into other parts of NY and the United States, ultimately going nationwide in late 2017. Oh, and there’s no server in anyone’s basement or garage anymore.
Looking back, it’s enjoyable to see all of the progress the company has made since its inception in 2000, and when I started in 2002. But the progress always felt slow-going, like nothing was ever moving fast enough. I understand that’s a pretty common feeling among most technology companies.
Q: You have been in this industry for over a decade. How have you seen PropTech impact it in the past years?
Take a moment to notice where you are in right now. This moment is the slowest pace technology is going to advance at for the rest of your life. Meaning, year after year technology impacts us faster. At the same time, this is a very technology adverse industry. For every early adapter, there’s ten or more real estate practitioners who are comfortable using whatever systems they have in place, which probably aren’t cutting edge. It’s human nature, and it’s not unique to real estate. I get it, we’re all busy, none of us want to take the time to explore new technologies even if we suspect that it’ll help us in the long-term. Not when we have so much going on at this very moment, and everything is working “well enough”.
In 2007, many of us were excited because the new version of Microsoft Excel went from allowing 64,000 records in a spreadsheet all the way up to 1 million! That was a huge advancement. Then came the cloud. Now, if you’re at least not thinking about how technologies such as big data and artificial intelligence are going to impact real estate, more specifically impacting your role in real estate, then you’re putting yourself in mortal professional danger.
Q: How do you think the real estate industry will evolve in the coming years and how do you think GeoData Plus will be a part of this?
As I said, it’s only going to evolve faster. In the past, more and more systems were silos. They had their unique role, and it was fine. I’ve seen more silos starting to integrate with other services. I dislike the term “one-stop-shop”, even if we’re guilty of using it from time to time, but more technology companies are heading in that direction. Others that are continuing to be silos, better have a real unique value proposition.
GeoData Plus will continue to contribute to the evolution of PropTech. We’re often not the first to bring in a new technology – instead we focus on the technologies that are already in the marketplace and applying them toward our services in order to make technology overall more approachable for our customers. We don’t necessarily want to disrupt what our customers do, we’d prefer to enhance their existing work.
Q: How can your product help commercial real estate professionals?
Every commercial real estate practitioner needs property data – whether it’s tax records, sold comps, listed comps, income and expenses, ownership, etc. I’m going to say it, even if I dislike the term – we’re a “one-stop-shop” for so much of that property data. Rather than having to go to multiple data sources, we have much of the property data that real estate professionals need on a day-to-day basis, all in one place. Our customers pay a very reasonable monthly fee to gain access to this data, and we allow a 30 day money-back-guarantee for anyone who wishes to try GeoData Plus to see if it’s right for them.
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