What do parents and real estate professionals have in common? They both know how big of a role schools play in the process of choosing where people want to live. Education options have a huge effect on home values, with access to good public schools being one of the main reasons people with kids decide to move to another area. In some regions (parts of California, for example) property taxes are the main source of tax dollars for a school. Thus good schools increase home values, home values rise and the increased tax revenue pours back into schools improving them further and creating a growth cycle on both ends. While this is not the case in every part of America, access to good schools is nevertheless a top concern of many homebuyers. This is of particular concern in large cities that have wide disparities in school quality. Chicago, IL is known for this, and with school attendance zones not necessarily lining up with the rough boundaries of neighborhoods, a prospective home buyer (or renter) can be left in the dark. Using Map Mavin, a real estate professional can easily create and share a map with his or her clients without either side of the equation having any mapping experience.
To start, the real estate professional goes to Chicago’s open data portal. Most large cities have open data portals; and data regarding school and neighborhood boundaries is ubiquitous in these portals. While for this example we went directly to Chicago’s site, we also could have taken a look at Map Mavin’s own data portal, comprised of over 11,000 files and all for free! Using our portal’s search function, the realtor finds three layers: High School Attendance Boundaries, School Locations and Neighborhood Boundaries. The files each have several options in terms of what format they are downloaded in. Luckily for our realtor and all Map Mavin users, this is a non-issue! Map Mavin accepts all major spatial file formats and then some, including KMLs, KMZs, GeoTIFFs, GeoJSONs, shapefiles and more. Going to our Layers tab in the Admin panel and clicking Create Layer, he or she uploads the layers all at once and then starts a new map project in the Maps tab. Once the layers are imported, he or she stylizes each individual layer, making sure to change the school attendance and neighborhood boundary layers to be semi-transparent so that clients can see areas where their boundaries differ. After stylizing the two polygon layers, the real estate professional then uses our built-in icons library to select a graduation cap icon as the symbol for locations of schools in the City of Chicago. The whole process takes less than five minutes and now he or she has a finished product that can be easily shared with clients and colleagues with the click of a button.
With the map now done, the real estate professional brings in his prospective home buyers. Using the Tilt button he or she changes the perspective and compass direction of the map to make viewing the North Side of Chicago easier by giving it the perspective of looking up the coast of Lake Michigan. Zooming in on the neighborhood of Streeterville, they click on the High School Attendance Boundaries layer and see that Wells HS is the local school and not far from the block they’d ideally like to be on. After cross-referencing with school data, they decide to hone in their search on the west side of the neighborhood to balance out access to the lake and the nearby school.
As you can see, the process is painless, intuitive, and requires no GIS experience to get the point across. Best of all, any future changes or additional layers that they may want to add, can be uploaded and reflected in the project’s maps automatically.
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