It is said that the most important factor in real estate is “location, location, location,” and for good reason.

Location is paramount to a home shopper’s search experience. The first question that an apartment hunter is likely to ask is: What neighborhood is right for me? Several variables will influence their decision, including: cost, proximity to work, safety, access to amenities such as grocery stores and restaurants and availability of apartments that suit their needs, among many other factors.

Whether they are aware of it or not, New York homebuyers and renters are engaged in their own form of spatial analysis as they consider the comparative benefits and drawbacks of different neighborhoods. The ranking of areas based on a set of priorities or criteria is an intrinsically spatial exercise for which real estate data is an essential ingredient.

At StreetEasy, we know that New Yorkers think of real estate in terms of neighborhoods. Our market reports include extensive neighborhood level data to empower buyers and renters to make an informed selection of their next home. We have also produced a growing body of research that compares neighborhoods based on certain metrics. In March, for example, we released our first rent affordability study, which found the typical New York City household needs to spend nearly 60 percent of its annual income on median asking rent in 2015. That number is startling in its own right, but we mapped neighborhood level rent-to-income ratios to provide an additional layer of insight into which areas of the city in particular face the greatest burden, shown below.

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This past Wednesday marked world geographic information systems (GIS) Day, an annual event celebrating the importance of spatial analysis and maps in a wide range of fields. I was invited to speak at Penn GIS Day, hosted by the Penn Institute of Urban Research at the University of Pennsylvania. The event, titled, “The Intersection of Geography, Real Estate and Civil Rights,” brought together a panel of practitioners who use mapping technology to advance. I was joined by Professor Susan Wachter, Albert Sussman Professor of Real Estate and Professor of Finance at the Wharton School; Al Parker, Research Associate at the Reinvestment Fund; and Robert Renner, Social Science Analyst at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

During the discussion, Renner spoke to the importance of the Fair Housing Act and how GIS can be used to contribute to equity. Parker outlined a partnership between his organization and HUD to create maps allowing policy makers and the public to easily search, query, and display demographic and subsidy information and analyze the needs of various communities.

GIS Day is an opportunity to understand the importance of location, but this carries through each and every day in StreetEasy’s research. As our work on affordability, demographics, and neighborhood change continues to unfold, you can expect to see more maps woven into our analyses.