Census 2020 is Coming – in 2022: The Challenges of Making Real Time Decisions with Stale Data

April 27, 2021

Many Commercial Real Estate (CRE) investors base their decisions solely on publicly available information sources, such as the Census and ACS data. These resources give visibility into local income, labor, growth, etc. The problem is that the data isn’t real time – or anything close to it. The quality and accuracy of the data also leaves something to be desired. Specifically, issues with collection methodology and geographic coverage often force investors to make decisions with incomplete, inconsistent and old data.

For example, let’s look at the 2020 Census. What begins in 2020 as the collection of the surveys, across a limited set of geographies (those with greater than 20k population) will take upwards of 22 months to produce. So, yes, the Census 2020 is indeed coming, but not until 2022.  To put things into perspective, the ACS 5 Year 2018 was just released on December 19, 2019. If an investment firm is relying on data available from either of these bodies of research, they’ll be making a decision based on stale information.

But why should this matter? Real estate moves slowly, and a two-year lag isn’t a big deal, right? Wrong. Real estate moves slowly until it doesn’t. There has been significant media coverage recently about two interesting phenomena in the commercial real estate space:

  1. Occupancy issues in Senior Housing: While billions of dollars have been spent over the past five years to build facilities for aging baby boomers, we’re seeing baby boomers buck the trend of previous generations.  Instead of entering a care facility, they’re opting to leverage new technology that allows them to remain in their home longer.  This means that construction has overshot demand for the fourth straight year. 
  2. Continued Weakness of Luxury Homes: While Manhattan real estate continues to move, the luxury segment – in particular homes priced at $5 million and up – is struggling. According to Mansion Global, “the luxury threshold was lowered to $3.25 million in 2019, compared to 2018’s figure of $3.9 million and the average threshold of $3.5 million over the last decade.” One of the biggest drivers of this weakness is an increase in inventory.

That’s not to say that real estate developers and investors didn’t do their homework around senior housing occupancy and demand for luxury homes. But it is likely that many of these decision makers could have benefited from real-time data to depict the current state of the market.

So, how can CRE investors and developers get access to data that can help them make decisions that better represent not just where the market is, but more importantly, where it’s headed?

Markerr provides CRE decision makers with the ability to understand real market insights that answer questions such as: What are the highest value neighborhoods? Which businesses are growing and why? We also provide better insight into rental rate growth, permits, payroll, and more, to help investors and developers see around corners and forecast more accurately. Our data set is large, covering more than 30 million Americans. It’s also granular, including 99% of counties in the U.S. And, perhaps most importantly, our data is real time.

While it’s true that the 2020 Census is forthcoming and publicly available information can aid decision making, it’s even more essential to ensure your data reflects where the market it today, and where it’s headed.