Developers have always done their best to predict the up-and-coming neighborhoods ripe for getting in on the ground floor. Today finding new investment properties ready for development is less of a mystic art and more science. New data sources and SaaS platforms help pinpoint areas ripe for development and the type of property or business that would fare well in that location.

These location intelligence platforms specialize in everything from demographic trends to mapping zoning potential. Many use visual dashboards to make digesting this information quick and easy. Common presentation is a map overlay with various sorting capabilities. Developers and investors use this information to forecast a potential development’s success with greater accuracy.

However, using these location intelligence platforms isn’t as cut-and-dry as you may think. The key, says Helen Johnson, ESRI’s Director of Communications and Marketing, is in what you ask. “The real value lies [in] asking questions that can be answered predictively so you can focus on identifying opportunities that others won’t think of because they don’t ask the right questions. What other characteristics and patterns exist that would make [the project] more likely to succeed?”

Companies like the Shopping Center Group (TSCG) used spatial data from provider ESRI to help clients find the highest possible return when selecting development sites. But ESRI is not the only operator offering real estate location intelligence.

Carto is a geo-analysis tool that can reveal population density and economic output. Applied to real estate, this information helps optimize rent rates and housing prices. Landlords can raise or lower their asking price to optimize their property’s returns.

Los Angeles-specific SaaS platform Pactriglo takes the city’s complex zoning code and finds underutilized properties and sites ripe for urban infill. It allows its users to prospect by all sorts of measures (price, utilization, etc).

Neighborhood Scout’s custom analytics help clients invest, appraise, or finance real estate. Their location-specific data includes information on neighborhood-specific crime, demographics, housing, and school performance. It predicts real estate trends and forecasts using predictive analytics.

Armed with this location intelligence, developers increase the chances their project will pay off. Knowing the right zoning from the start helps move developments through the system quicker. Presenting strong demographics and comparables appeals to investors looking to finance real estate projects. To summarize, location intelligence is how real estate professionals unlock more value from their investment projects.