Small builders, infill developers, and data fans, rejoice: You just got a new tool for assessing a piece of real estate.
Sitegeist, a smartphone app developed by the Washington, D.C.–based Sunlight Foundation, combines and repackages data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Minnesota Population Center, and other sources to provide instant, user-friendly demographic snapshots of the area surrounding your location. It is a free download for both Apple and Android devices.
"Drawing on publicly available information, this app presents solid data in a simple at-a-glance format to help you tap into the pulse of your location,” says Tom Lee, director of Sunlight Labs, which is part of the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation and develops websites and other digital tools that make government data more accessible to the public. “Sitegeist takes the public's love of infographics, and hunger for customized facts and figures, and makes it available all in one app."
Sitegeist divides this data into five sections: people, housing, fun, weather, and history. Once you’ve selected your location, you can quickly learn the average age (and age distribution) of residents, including the number of children under age five, the distribution of average household income, the median value and age of homes, the percentage who rent, and breakdown of their commuting habits. You can even discover their political leanings: Sitegeist uses data from Influence Explorer, which gathers information on political contributions.
The downside for builders to this otherwise helpful and easy-to-use app? You cannot search by zip code or address; you must “drop a pin” on the graphical map within the app to select your location, which is fine when you’re actually physically standing on the block you’re researching. If you’re curious about a neighborhood just down the road or across town, though, you have to zoom, tap on that interactive map, and drop a pin on the desired location, which takes a little more time and finger-tapping precision.