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Real estate investment can be a great path to wealth creation and financial freedom. The problem, as Donato Callahan sees it, is that many individuals, families and hopeful small businesses don’t know how to get started.

The desire to help the “little guy” get off the ground and build the future they dream of is what inspired Callahan and his partner, Drew McCluskey, to create BrightInvestor. The real estate data visualization platform provides crucial information residential investors need to choose the perfect geographic area to invest in and vet potential deals based on the area around the property.

Doing Data Right

One of the biggest hurdles smaller investors face, Callahan says, is sorting through all the data and services out there.

“You can spend $20,000 on a subscription to some of these sites and they’ll get so detailed that you even know the ground soil’s chemical composition,” he says. “Unless you’re a big-time developer, most investors don’t need that level of information. In the era of big data, the correct answer isn’t necessarily more data; it’s the right data shown in the right way. We show people what’s happening in any given area because where you buy can make or break your investment.”

The right type of data is what helps that investor take the first step, and every other step after that.

“It’s all about doing the first deal and then scaling,” Callahan continues. “And there can be some massive gaps between achievements. It’s easy to feel stuck when going from zero deals to one, from five properties to 10 properties, or from one market to three markets. Those are all big steps that can leave investors feeling lost or overwhelmed. We show you that you can do this. We conveniently display data in a way you can understand so taking action is exciting instead of scary. It’s all about displaying the right data in the right medium.”

For Callahan, that medium is visual. The two partners met after Callahan studied GIS (Geographic Information Systems) in college and began working for the Department of Defense. The pair were on one of their weekly Zoom calls when they discovered they were both working on mapping platforms that highlighted key market attributes for real estate investing. In less than three months, BrightInvestor was founded and began development on New Year’s Day 2022. From the start, the display included heat maps, neighborhood-specific data, pins and easy-to-read, color-coded charts.

“We did a poll on the various types of learners – visual, auditory, or reading and writing,” Callahan explains. “The vast majority of respondents noted they were visual learners. It makes sense: seeing is believing. People process information much more quickly with colors, shading and layers than they do by reading tons of text. Maps enable us to effectively communicate a story so you don’t have to sit down for hours on end, reading a 25-page report that you can’t take action on because it’s impossible to digest.”

BrightInvestor’s data works both ways: an investor can upload a spreadsheet that contains prospective properties, or they can create a list of desirable locations based off their BrightInvestor search. The platform can then streamline with other real estate data tools that focus on property analytics and deal sourcing, giving investors the well-rounded picture, they need to act.

Practical Applications

Callahan knows real estate investors are buying more than just a building when they sign on the dotted line. They’re buying into the future of an area…and into its current issues.

The only problem?

“You can’t buy a whole neighborhood and you can’t buy a city,” Callahan says. “What you can do is make sure you’re buying into a neighborhood and city that are adding value and on the rise.”

That’s why metrics like population and job growth are front and center at BrightInvestor.

Callahan notes investors will want to follow two types of population growth: births and immigration (or in-migration).

“As the population of a given area continues to grow, you’ll see more people in need of more housing, which creates higher demand for a variety of different properties,” he says. “Naturally, you want an area with a larger pool of renters that need the service you provide – safe, clean, affordable housing. If that population is shrinking, finding a qualified renter becomes more difficult, which will affect your cash flow if you don’t find the right person.”

Job growth is also an important metric, particularly for investors who want to acquire short-term rentals.

“Some areas are boom and bust,” Callahan says. “You’ll see massive spikes and drops in certain types of employment. That’s the case with oil towns. As the price of oil grows or shrinks, people will come and go. On the other hand, an area with growing hospitals and other medical employers can attract traveling nurses – a popular demographic for short- and mid-term rentals.”

Seeing not just how many jobs are coming to an area but what sector those jobs are in can provide crucial data points for the viability of short-term rentals.

Many of BrightInvestor’s crucial data points come from ATTOM. Callahan notes he and his partner were looking for a company with a “highly credible, battle tested platform” that can not only be a one-stop shop, but offer the potential for new and ever-growing data points to be added.

“Having this company that is constantly looking to bring in new types of property data, that has a credible reputation and is easy to work with has been amazing,” Callahan says.

BrightInvestor currently uses U.S. Census information curated and compiled by ATTOM. It also utilizes ATTOM’s historic sales trends and other market data to provide its users with a diversified view of any given U.S. market.

Callahan says the firm is also eyeing other offerings by ATTOM and appreciates the regular updates on available products.

“By keeping us in the loop, we can constantly assess where these new data points can benefit our platform and users,” he says. “Anything that helps our users take the next step and stop feeling stuck is what we’re looking for.”

Callahan empathizes with his smaller investor user base because he and his partner are residential investors themselves.

“We know what it feels like for real estate investors to want to succeed so badly and feel like their dreams are right there for the taking,” he explains. “We also know that feeling stuck or unconfident can prevent someone from ever taking the action that actually makes their dreams a reality. Avoiding missteps early on is crucial to a strong start and one of the best steps to take is knowing where to buy. We know what that journey looks like and we want to be there to support them.”

Bright Investor will officially launch in March.

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