Friday, July 31, 2009

Deed and Mortgage Analysis and Mapping Software

Avencia Incorporated, a geographic analysis and software development firm, announces the public release of The Philadelphia Department of Records’ LandStat web application. LandStat aggregates millions of Philadelphia real estate transactions into a set of reporting and analysis tools based on Avencia’s Kaleidocade Indicators Framework (KIF). The site was originally designed to help City staff to quickly and easily visualize and interpret geographic patterns and trends in the Philadelphia real estate market.

Public records laws and a new emphasis on government transparency have given rise to an ‘Open Government’ movement. There are a growing number of initiatives providing public access to an unprecedented range of government data. CitiStat and other performance management programs are also making government agencies more accountable in terms of the quality of the services they provide and how they are spending tax-payer money. It is in this context that the Philadelphia Department of Records (DOR) has released LandStat along with its other publicly accessible web-based applications.

LandStat incorporates information on property transactions from the DOR’s ParcelExplorer mapping database, the PhilaDox document management system and data from the assessor’s office. Individual records from these systems were geocoded to a map location and then stamped with ZIP Codes, City Council districts, wards, U.S. Census tracts, and blockgroups using the Unified Land Records System (ULRS) -- winner of the Public Technology Institute 2008 Technology Solutions Award (Web & EGovernment category). Once aggregated to these districts, the resulting dataset was then fed into Avencia’s Kaleidocade Indicators Framework (KIF), a web-based analysis and visualization software, for publication and analysis on the web. The system includes such categories as mortgages, deeds, Sheriff’s deeds (an indicator of foreclosures), Real Estate Transfer Tax (RTT), and property types.

LandStat enables city planners, real estate investors, or any interested users to create thematic maps, chart trends over time, get detailed reports on specific geographic areas of interest, and perform complex analysis through a straightforward interface using only a web browser. Data can be viewed in a map, with geographic areas color-coded to indicate different ranges of values. Being able to see hot spots or areas of inactivity quickly and easily can inform decisions and inspire ways of thinking that might not have been possible by viewing the same data in a spreadsheet. LandStat also enables users to create scatter plots, view a statistical analysis, create tables with specific ranges of data, or rank top and bottom locations for a particular indicator.

“Land records might not be the first thing people think of in the context of economic development, but having access to data related to sales, property taxes, property types and ownership information enables more efficient use of the land and real estate investments. LandStat’s purpose, like the other web-applications that the DOR has launched over the years, is meant to enable just that.” -- Joan Decker, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Records

Users of LandStat can focus their queries on individual geographic areas or specific types of transactions, or take a step back and look at the data in a larger context, depending on what types of questions they are trying to answer. The Department of Records has made the database available with the hope that it will enable both consumers and policy-makers to better understand the real estate market and thereby support more effective economic development and real estate decisions.


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