Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Using the maps
The data

How do I see information on a location?

Click on any part of the map that is colored in.
You will see a “report card” titled Location Scores pop up on the left-hand side of your screen showing the scores for that location. Scroll down to see them all. Hold your mouse pointer over any score to see a brief explanation of what it means.
The areas that are not colored in (or grey) are not clickable because they either do not contain single-family homes (e.g. commercial, industrial, or farms) or have been filtered out by one of the criteria you set. Try clearing your filters.

How is this different from other major real estate websites?

We don't just show listings (houses for sale), we show them plotted on top of a very rich suite of location data. We want you to have not just listings but to see actionable advice on where to buy and why. The data available are not easily available without spending far more time and effort than most people would have (or want) to spend. You can also filter the map on these advanced location criteria. Why plug in listings in a spreadsheet one by one to check if they are profitable, if you can filter all of that out ahead of time and then do that analysis for the 5 or 10 that actually meet your requirements?

What are the houses shown?

Currently the houses shown on the map are from the MLS (multiple listing service), similar to most major real estate sites. Typically when a house gets listed, it will appear here quickly. We refresh the data every 1-2 hours. At present we do not yet show off-market listings, but these are planned for the future.

Why do you offer these metrics on the map?

These metrics were chosen specifically, or “curated” specifically with the real estate investor in mind, based on the experiences of investors. This means we didn't just throw in 100 indicators questionable relevance. Also, some were created by us specifically, such as Neighborhood Change, which is a composite of indicators changing over time that define whether an area is getting better or worse.

Isn’t this all just census data I can get for free?

No, with the exception of the category we called Census. For everything else, the metrics are created by combining different data sources from professional data vendors and applying spatial processing. We translate everything into a 1-10 scale that makes it easy to compare, where the 1-10 scale represents the maximum and minimum for the metro area. We compress three months of research and data processing for you into just three minutes. Furthermore, the data are updated regularly so that the map reflects the latest conditions.

How often are the maps and data updated?

The listings you see on the map (the houses for sale) are updated every hour. The color codes on the maps are refreshed once per quarter with new data. Certain indicators like market inventory tend to change the fastest. Others, such as Risk factors, change more slowly and tend to change on an annual basis.

The 1-10 scale is relative to what?

To allow for easy comparison, we scaled everything to 1-10 within the metropolitan area. For Demand and Performance, these are things you want “more” of, so 1 means “worst” in in the metro area and 10 means the “best.” For Risk and Supply, these are things you want less of, so a 1 means “best” and 10 means “worst.” In all cases, green is good and red is bad.

Can’t I just type in an address and get a report?

You can always type in an address as follows:
Press enter and you will see the Location Scores for that city block appear on the left-hand side of the screen, if the address corresponds to a residential block.
But Locate Alpha can do so much more: Try the filter feature to filter down locations, and try the financial estimates. With LocateAlpha, you don't just "pull" a demographic report, you get get insights and form an investment strategy.

How do I run a CMA report?

You can save houses to your Favorites and then run a report using the Report button on the toolbar and choosing Saved Opportunities. You could alternatively just include anything on the screen by choosing the Current Screen option.

How do I search by city or zip?

Use the Search Bar at the top of the screen to type in the city or ZIP code, and the map will jump to the center of that city or ZIP.
Soon, we will have it set up so that an outline appears around the city or ZIP code on the map when you search for it.
However, you don't need to think about neighborhoods or zip codes if you can think in blocks.
You may be accustomed to searching by city/ZIP because that’s how it’s always been done. But there are huge differences within a city or ZIP code. One side of a road can be “good”, and the other side “bad.”
One side of a ZIP code can also be totally different than the other.
That’s why we show the data in individual city blocks, which are much more precise. This level of detail is not easily found from other sources. By using the Filters, you can eliminate blocks that are not acceptable, without having to exclude (or include) entire cities.
When I was buying a house a few years ago, I searched by city, and missed a house that was just a couple of miles over the border into the next city. I found it completely by accident and ended up buying it! All because of a “city” filter I nearly missed that opportunity.

Can the map display the data color coded by city, ZIP, or neighborhood?

We designed the map intentionally to be “micro” and detailed, even when you are zoomed out. The reason is that conditions actually vary quite widely within a single ZIP code. By relying on ZIP code level analysis, you will not get the precision you need to make a good decision.
We encourage you to apply filters to exclude city blocks that do not meet your requirements, and you will see that the results actually cut across neighborhoods as neighborhoods are often quite uneven. At this point, Locate Alpha does not attempt to define neighborhood boundaries.
We believe that one neighborhood often blends into another, and you will get better results by using a smaller unit of analysis.
Tip: If the map is hard to see, try zooming in a little, and try turning off the listings (houses for sale) using the switch at the bottom of the screen, so that they do not clutter the view.

I have applied filters and don’t see anything.

Try zooming out or panning the map around to see what’s left. Zoom out by using the middle wheel on your mouse, the + or - key on your keyboard, or the + or - button on the screen. There will be some spots of color.
If you don't see any houses on the map, you're zoomed in too far, or your filters are set too tight. Try zooming out with the +/- key or the wheel on your mouse or clearing your filter settings.
If you still can’t see any houses, try clicking on a house that appears on the right hand side Opportunities list, and the map will fly in to that spot. If this does not work, click on Filters and Reset All Filters.

What do short-term and long-term investment mean?

    Short-term Investment mode in LocateAlpha is for flipping a house. In this mode, your Overall Score is weighted heavily on appreciation. Areas that are appreciating quickly are going to get a higher score because you are likely to want to ride the wave of an improving neighborhood. It is also thought of as an 'active' investor strategy where you buy and sell houses for capital gain but you do not want to hold those long-term and rent them out.
    Long-term Investment mode is for buying and holding a property for several years and renting it out. This includes the BRRR (buy-rehab-rent-refinance) strategy. In this mode, your Overall Score is weighted heavily on things like Jobs-Current and Cap Rate, to maximize your odds of getting cashflow.
    Main Residence mode is for buying a house to live in. In this mode, financial performance is ignored. The overall score is weighted heavily on GreatSchools Scores and low Crime.
Change your goal by clicking here in the header of the app:
Note that at present, the Total Return and IRR as displayed in the financial estimates always assume a 5-year hold and do not change depending on your selected goal.

How do I get financial estimates on a house?

Click on any house on the map, or on the right-hand side of the screen, and the house will pop up. You’ll get details on the listing, such as how much the seller is asking for and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms. You’ll also get a full list of financial estimates for the house.
You can adjust the offer price up or down, and Cap Rate and Net Operating Income will automatically refresh to show the effect of that offer price on your financial projection.
We include a very comprehensive set of expenses for the house to give you a complete picture of what it will really cost to own the property. There is a rhyme and reason to the estimates we calculate, that usually make them a nice starting point, but you are welcome to change them if you have specific knowledge of the details. Click Reset to default estimates if you want to start over at any time.
Your expenses are not simply Property Tax and Insurance -- we include the “hidden” costs such as Maintenance, Vacancy and Listing Fees, all of which are usually skipped in other calculators to make the financial returns (profits) look higher! In fact, we take what’s almost a “worst case” scenario, because if the numbers "work" at the worst case, you’re golden. Don’t be caught by surprise.

Your cap rates are too low / do not match mine!

We aggressively load Yearly Expenses to reflect all of the expenses you may encounter, including "hidden expenses".
We include hidden expenses like leasing commissions, vacancy, maintenance, and capex reserve contributions.
That means we assume property taxes may jump up to reflect the current valuation. We assume a reasonable annual Maintenance expense, Vacancy, Capital Expenditure, and more. Most calculators do not include this many expenses and will inevitably show a higher cap rate than reality. You can exclude any of these expenses manually by dragging the slider down to zero and the Cap Rate and Net Operating Income will adjust on the fly, or adjust them as you like.

How do I factor in loans / mortgage / leverage?

We are adding on this feature in the near future to be able to show your cash flow after debt service.

Who cares about location, it’s all about the deal / buying under-market, right?

That’s how everyone’s taught to buy. The reality is that when the market is tight, sometimes you have to take what you can get. But isn’t real estate about “location, location, location?” If you can buy in an area that’s on the up-and-up and has manageable risk factors (e.g. Crime, Economic Distres and a strong Jobs-Current employment base) why not do it? Simialrly, if all available opportunities are in tough locations, you may want to pass on those to avoid taking on more than you're ready to deal with.
If you are experienced and can take on more risk, you can do that. But other investors might want to manage their level of risk until they are more experienced. This helps avoid bad experiences with real estate. Everyone's heard the story about Uncle Bob that lost his shirt in real estate. Don't be Bob.
Being near Demand category items and low Supply should indicate a strong rental market, maximizing your odds of success.

How can I do a comparison of areas?

The best way to do that is to use the map to compare the color codes for the areas. You can use the “overall score” to get an idea at a glance, of how areas compare.
From there, we recommend using the Report feature to compare specific house you have a) either on the screen, or b) saved in your Favorites. The report will show every metric and financial estimate covered in LocateAlpha, with one house per column. Currently comparison reports are designed to compare houses rather than areas.

How do I search for a duplex/triplex/fourplex?

This is in the plan to be implemented as soon as possible, but currently the duplexes are mixed in with the general listings as they are not that common in our test market.

What if I have a feature suggestion?

Contact us at [email protected] and tell us.


Our data is accurate to the block level, but in the event of differences within a single block on some of these metrics, and if absolute precision is required, you are advised to do a detailed confirmation with your title company or other source that works at the address level, as part of your underwriting or due diligence. We accept no responsibility for errors or omissions in the data, and provide no warranty on the accuracy of the data or responsibility for lost revenue.
Last modified 6mo ago