Thursday, July 14, 2011

Geodemography

Lately, I have been thinking about two of my biggest passions, and wondering how I can be more involved in one or the other, or a combination of the two.

One, is residential real estate.  Even now that I am settled into a house I love, I can't stop being curious about all the other houses and neighbourhoods of the city.  I love following along when any of my friends are family are looking for a new house.  I want to know which houses they've seen, how they compare, and what the pros and cons are of each.  I want to know which neighbourhoods they are looking in, what draws them to each, which areas they want to avoid, and what changes are expected in each area.  I get a lot of joy out of tracking MLS, and also learning the sale prices of homes in my area, and in friends' neighbourhoods too.

The other interest I have, is geodemography.  I majored in Math & Stats in university, so I've always had an affinity for numbers and statistics.  I also find Census data to be so interesting, and worked for the Census back in 2001, during the summer after my first year of university.  After graduating, I tried to find a job in the field, and ended up in the field of Market Research - managing market research studies (including the writing of the surveys, and the follow-up analysis) for major international retailers.  It was a fairly interesting job, but not really what I had in mind.  I prefer studying neighbourhoods and population stats, to find patterns and trends.  I've always thought it would be fun to work for a large, growing retailer, determining the next sites in which to open, by matching the retailer's target market with the population of a neighbourhood.  

It seems that a lot of geodemographic research is done using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software, so I have been toying with the idea of taking a course.  There is a basic course offered at George Brown.  In my search, I also learned about a certificate program at Ryerson, in Demographic Analysis!  That would be so up my alley!  This also includes GIS training, with one of the mandatory courses being "GIS Applications in Demography".  One of the electives that really interests me is "Retailing, GIS and Geodemographics".  I'm not sure how practical (at 6 courses long, it's a big commitment), or even really how useful this certificate program would be for me, but it does seem very interesting. 

In the meantime, I'm also toying with getting my Real Estate Licence.  If nothing else, it would enable me to help a few friends and family members with home sales.  But I have mixed thoughts on that.  For one thing, I feel that the Real Estate market is completely and overly saturated with too many agents.  It seems that everyone knows at least one agent, and feels obligated to use them when moving.  And equally, it seems that all of these agents expect their family and friends to be their clientele.  It's difficult for anyone to choose their agent based on experience, knowledge, and ability, without hurting the feelings of a loved one.  I also feel that it's a tough lifestyle - residential agents do most of their work on weeknights and weekends.  This is not really conducive to having a family at home.  On the flipside, it would be nice to have the flexible schedule. 

If anything, I could see myself selling Real Estate on the side, and maintaining my full-time job (which for the record, I do really enjoy -- I'm not trying to leave my job, I just want to incorporate some of my passions into my life). 

I wonder if there is a demographic/GIS application in the field of residential real estate?  Do residential developers utilize this type of research?