Zonability coming to Denver



  • Zonability to be launched in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Loveland on Aug. 1
  • Zonability is being brought to Colorado by First American Title.
  • House-hunting consumers have been big fans of Zonability in Texas.
Leigh Budlong is the founder of Zonability, which is being launched in Denver and other Colorado cities on Aug. 1.

Leigh Budlong is the founder of Zonability, which is being launched in Denver and other Colorado cities on Aug. 1.

Zonability, a “disruptive” technological tool that evaluates potential promises and pitfalls of buying property, is coming to the Denver area after launching in Texas.

The Colorado division of First American Title on Aug. 1, plans to launch Zonability, a subscription service that will provide easy-to-understand and search zoning information on parcels in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Loveland.

After the initial launch, Austin-based Zonability plans to expand into suburban counties around Denver, as well as in states outside of Texas and Colorado.

The Zonability property database already provides detailed zoning and other property information on more than 2.5 million parcels in 36 cities in Texas.

“First American Title Colorado is excited to partner with Zonability as part of our ongoing commitment to innovative technologies that positively impact our local real estate community.” said Ryan M. Swed, State President of First American Title Colorado.

Added Brandon Smith, the state sales manager for First American Title in Colorado: “We have seen strong client reaction to the initial demonstrations of the tool in our market, indicating this is a good partnership.”

Zonability provides a user-friendly service that has proved to be especially valuable for house hunting consumers, according to Leigh Budlong, a former a commercial real estate appraiser and broker in the San Francisco area, who founded Zonability.

“Let’s say you are out looking at houses with your Realtor and you are concerned what could be built on a vacant lot across from a house you are thinking of buying,” said her husband, Andrew Budlong.

The Realtor could send a text message to First American Title and quickly get a detailed and easy to understand description of things such as how many square feet and stories could be built on the parcel, as well as the type of uses permitted,

“In Texas, some consumers are even asking their Realtors what the “Zonability” is for that property,” Andrew said.

What they seldom do is ask is for the zoning. If they did and were told U-SU-B, it would mean nothing to most people, anyway.

Instead, they might ask what can be built on parcels.

Zonability will soon be making its Colorado debut.

Zonability will soon be making its Colorado debut.

“Most consumers think zoning is only for commercial properties and don’t realize these kind of “invisible” zoning rules do impact their lives,” Andrew said.

At the same time, Zonability also is a valuable and potentially time-saving tool for developers, real estate investors, architects, engineers and other real estate professionals.

For example, an apartment developer could use it to quickly determine how many square feet could be built on a parcel, how many other apartments have been built nearby, and the potential for other new apartment buildings in a specific neighborhood.

Although apartment occupancies and rental rates are at record levels in Denver, many observers are concerned about the potential of overbuilding.

“Zonability won’t tell them whether they should buy the parcel or not,” but will provide useful information to make an informed decision, Andrew said.

In Denver, where growth and development have become politically charged issues, Zonability could be used to profile a neighborhood to determine the percentage of single-family homes and apartments, for example.

“That has been done informally in Texas,” Andrew said.

“We don’t take sides,” he added. Indeed, people could look at the data and come up with different conclusions, he noted.

“We’re big believers in providing people with data and then letting them make decisions based on factual information,” he said.

The Denver Community Planning and Development department in recent months has made online zoning searches easier than ever for consumers to access, However, Zonability improves on that with things such as easy to digest graphics and data, according to Leigh and Andrew.

The Colorado division of First American Title will soon have access to maps like this in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Loveland. First American Title could provide the information to Realtors, who use it to help clients.

The Colorado division of First American Title will soon have access to maps like this in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Loveland. First American Title could provide the information to Realtors, who use it to help clients.

In other words, Zonability makes complicated information easy to understand at a glance.

For example, while public data might tell you the square footage of an existing building, Zonability could tell you the square footage after a potential redevelopment.

“The planning department is the Post Office and Zonability is FedEx,” one developer in Texas said, according to Andrew.

A light went off in Leigh Budlong’s head that led to the creation of Zonability, after she spoke a White House conference on innovative uses of public data in 2011.

She and Andrew liquidated their 401 (k)s and life savings to launch Zonability.

They moved to Austin, because they felt it had a great opportunity there, with all of its growth and its tech-savvy population.

In Austin, they formed a relationship with First American Title.

First American Colorado will be able to differentiate itself from other title companies by providing real estate brokers with access to Zonability, Andrew said.

“In Texas, some real estate agents call the “Scout Search” function on Zonability their ‘secret weapon,’” he said.

“First American Colorado was the ideal partner to expand Zonability’s coverage outside the state of Texas for the first time,” according to Leigh.

“They instantly understood our product’s unique value,” she added.

First American Colorado has a big presence in the Denver area and when Texas officials at First American told Swed and others about it, they were eager to bring it to Denver, Andrew said.

“Additionally, we’ve learned that Zonability is especially powerful in sophisticated real estate markets, which certainly fits the state of Colorado.” Leigh said.

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. DenverRealEstateWatch.com is sponsored by 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.


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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for GlobeSt.com, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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