Novogradac Uses Tech to Beef Up Affordable Housing Consulting Niche

National CPA firm Novogradac & Co. has beefed up its affordable housing and community development services niche fields as well as its general real estate services by developing an online system that provides detailed housing data, on urban and non-urban markets nationwide.

The Compsmart too, which culls rental and occupancy rates. population growth patterns as well as tax credit availabilities in markets spanning all but a handful of states, is designed for use by community planners, developers, lenders, and real estate investors, with an emphasis on involvement on low-income housing areas. The firm is in the finishing stages of making the tool available on its Web site, novoco.com.

“To be able to use this kind of information in advancing the development and in some cases recovery of our communities is vital to the health of the entire country,” said Michael J. Novogradac, managing partner at the firm’s San Francisco headquarters office. The firm, with almost $25 million in annual net revenues, is ranked 26th in Public Accounting Report’s list of fastest growing firms.

The tool could help hasten the growth of its real estate and low-income housing practices because, the firm claims, it provides some unique data sets. While the information stored in the system could be individually accessed from federal and local market records “Compsmart is the first system to provide a centralized data base with so much information covering this many territories,” said company spokeswoman Karen Pestoral.

The technology was developed by Novogradac’s Washington, D.C.-based Market Research Group practice in conjunction with the firm’s internal information technology team. “The trend toward gathering more and relevant data is important to any industry. It (Compsmart) is a real boon for those dedicated to the production of affordable housing and its complementary developments,” said Brad Weinberg, partner in charge of the Market Research Group.

In addition to reporting on rental rates and occupancy levels, Compsmart helps determine future demand for real estate by reporting on property absorption rates, lengths of waiting lists for rental properties, and the pace of leasing in each market covered. Its sources of data include the U.S. Census Bureau and the federal Housing and Urban Development department and reports from property managers in each of the markets covered.

Novogradac will charge from $15 to $50 for individual property profiles and market demographic reports obtained from Compsmart and charge $1,000 and up for annual licenses.

This is just the latest in many steps Novogradac has taken over the past year to beef up its presence in low-income, affordable housing development consulting. Late last year, it added a new partner to its Boston office – Jim McGowan, who was the leader of the National Affordable Housing Practice for American Express Tax and Business Services. Earlier last year, the firm’s San Francisco headquarters added new partner David Keller, a former tax manager with KPMG in Orange County, Calif., who previously was a director with a large syndicator of low-income housing properties in the Los Angeles area

The firm has also sponsored several national and regional conferences covering the financing of low-income and other types of housing and targeted at Compsmart’s market of developers, lenders, investors and community development authorities. Its next such event is scheduled for January 25-27 in Phoenix. Details are on the firm’s Web site.

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