GIS Mapping "side hustle"

11 Replies

Hi, I am curious about the needs of Real Estate Agents and Investors when it comes to mapping using GIS (geographic information systems). I create maps using GIS at my day job and thought it might be an interesting "side hustle" to sell my expertise to folks in real estate. I know that between Google Earth Pro and county-maintained GIS platforms it is possible to get a lot of property information for free, but I imagine that for folks without day-to-day experience, it can be time-consuming and often frustrating.

On top of that, often times data is unavailable in less urban areas or available only in paper or PDF format which means scanning photo-copied images that are barely readable. There are ways around this, but they take expertise and the right software. I can't tell you how many times I have looked at a property ad for (usually vacant) land, or even some residential properties, and I spend as much time trying to figure out on my own exactly what the property lines are and where it's located as I do reading the ad because the description is vague or the uploaded plat map is an unreadable photo copy.

The true power of GIS comes from layering different datasets on top of one another to create a full picture. I imagine this would be useful for developers or folks working on more complex transactions. Heck, even an agent selling retail could use some presentation-quality maps to provide for open houses or to provide a concise picture of the neighborhood.

My question is: would folks in the industry pay for services like this to a "desktop GIS handyman" of sorts? $50-100 spent on a few hours of GIS-based due dilligence or marketing materials could go a long way toward getting that big commission or pushing a deal over the finish line. True blue GIS consulting firms generally cost $100s per hour for even the most basic services. Anyways, thoughts on an approach like this would be appreciated. I would think Craiglist and referrals would be the best way to gather side work like this, but how could it be marketed? Is this just a pipedream that REI pros would pay for this vs. spending extra time doing it themselves for free or hiring an intern/VA/assistant/bird-dog to run this stuff down? Thanks in advance for any responses!

I also use GIS by day and have had these same thoughts. I don't know if technology has gotten to the point where they do not need to hire a professional, or if real estate agents and brokers simply don't realize the potential. Good question, I hope some RE professionals chime in.

i seriously just found out about this and was looking up one of the local millionaires property and whoa ! what a wealth of information. 


Can you elaborate on the services you would provide? I am a county GIS user in my area and I often cross-reference info between that and the Register of Deeds. Not as smooth as ESRI data sets, but does give valuable info. What I don't know is can you easily pull info such as that available from Listsource? If not, what sort of info would be possible from a more sophisticated GIS than the type from county mapping systems?

Hi All,I too have considered the GIS side-hustle....have any of you ever tries QGIS?  Free Opensource GIS software. Fairly intuitive and comparable (at a basic level) to ESRI.  Would love to hear thoughts on how to add value for anyone in the Real Estate business...

You could sell your services to realtors or investors, or you could make money putting together a workshop on how to do the GIS research.    Make good powerpoint slides for the workshop, videotape it, and you can have a video product that you could then sell to other folks.

To get them interested you could offer a free seminar with an overview of how GIS could help their business.   Use case studies if possible.   Give away enough free information in the seminar that they come away with something useful, but leave the more deep-down details for a paid follow-up class.

...and you could use the free seminar to whet the whistle of those professionals that would rather pay you to do the GIS work for them than to do it themselves.

Emm, this is an interesting topic. I have a Ph.D. in Geography and GIS and am working on a master of computer science. I currently work as a GIS software and application developer but our company focus on utilities and power companies so I never got much chance to really look into using GIS in real estate yet, but that is part of my future plan.

My limited experience in GIS is collecting data at different levels to analyze spatial patterns of income, homes, rentals, and some other data from public sources such as census. 

The power of GIS is in sophisticated analysis if detailed data available. And I am planning to create some useful applications to help my investment going forward.

It will be great if someone can throw in some good ideas.

My initial idea came about because I often see properties, especially vacant land, advertised with extremely poor-quality property maps and it sometimes takes me, a GIS professional, 5-10 minutes to find out where the property actually is because it's so unclear. I see RE agents often just upload a photocopy or a scanned copy of a plat map and call it good. It would only take someone adept with GIS software a few minutes to put together a readable map that includes adjacent properties, easements, etc. and that tiny input may go a long way to attracting the right buyer.

That said, anyone who understands this will probably be savvy enough to download Google Earth for free and take a quick screenshot so it's a bit of a chicken or the egg from my standpoint. Anyone who understands the value will be able to get it for free these days. I do like the idea of an online workshop or class. What specifically do you think folks may want to learn how to do?

For vacant land, I'd want to know how far current power, water and sewer lines come to the property.   Also, if there's one entity that owns a lot of the land around there, show their holdings.

For occupied properties, a "heat map" of crime reports in the area might be interesting.   Registered sex offenders would be another good thing to show right on an overlay.   Scores for surrounding schools.    Floodplains.

Just a few off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts.

Hello everyone! 

I'm looking into doing something similar to what you've mentioned above. I'm a GIS technician at an engineering firm trying to break into the realm of real estate investing. Has anyone successfully done any freelance GIS/Real Estate work? I was thinking along the lines of neighborhood/city/area analysis. I'd love to collaborate with someone on this. We could develop something combining recent MLS sales of a certain property type in various towns, compared to rents in those areas. Effectively we could calculate Rent/Price and test for "the 2% rule" in a variety of towns. This is just one of my ideas, so please don't hesitate to either reach out to me via direct message or continue this thread.