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Deals & Dealmakers

Data expert taking the lead in bringing real estate information to the world

Paula Gafitescu was fresh out of college with a Computer Science degree when Property Shark opened an office in Romania.
Her studies prepared her with a foundational understanding of programming languages and she was able to land her first gig out of school as a data analyst with Property Shark.

Her initial responsibilities at the firm — which provides real estate research tools to agents, brokers, and investors — included combing through thousands of columns of data to be compiled into consumer reports.

It’s now been more than 11 years and Gafitescu has since worked her way up to become Property Shark’s lead programmer. She is still based in the company’s office in Cluj, Romania.

During a recent visit to New York City, she told Real Estate Weekly that while she was never really involved in the real estate world, she’s learned the important connection between her skills as a programmer and the need for digestible real estate data.

“We are not making real estate, but we are very close,” Gafitescu said of her tech-centric job. “There’s something that connects those separate parts; the data. The agents need the data, but sometimes they do not know how to get the data and how to use the data.”

“That’s why we are building websites for them, to show them the data, to develop tools for the agents, so they can easily navigate through our data and find whatever they need so that their business is successful.”

Gafitescu’s first major project with Property Shark was helping to design their Comparables tool which, like the name suggests, offers recent sales numbers for comparable properties to help users value a home.

But she had to learn that it was not all about the data behind the tools and there needed to be room to consider the tool’s functionality and accessibility for those who use them.

Gafitescu explained the process of creating these property research tools begins with identifying its function. Once the tool is ready, there is a lot of consideration for the user interface where a designer will consider the client’s perspective and tweak the product’s features, Gafitescu said. And the process never really ends as Gafitescu said they are often looking at how to improve the tool’s effectiveness and functionality.

As an accomplished baker in her spare time, Gafitescu said her attention to detail in her baking skills has helped her focus more on the aesthetics and features in the presentation of the data.

And now as lead programmer, Gafitescu is in charge of a major overhaul of most of Property Shark’s features, including the Comparables tool and the recently-launched Real Owners tool that identifies the owners behind property-owning LLCs, and Advanced Search, which allows users to digitally canvass neighborhoods to find properties.

“After nine years, we are redesigning the Comparables tool,” Gafitescu said. “It’s another big project because we need to make sure we have a pretty interface, a good user experience, and that we offer our clients all the data they need to make a good evaluation of the property.”

The first step includes better understanding their data offerings, Gafitescu said. She said Property Shark has conducted outreach through their research, marketing, and customer support teams to accurately gauge what their client’s data needs are. And while the data is being revamped, Gafitescu said the Comparables tool also has to have solid backend architecture to avoid performance issues and bugs. Alongside the tweaks to the Comparables tool, Property Shark has also launched the Advanced Search to their clients. The tool allows clients to put in specific criteria for a neighborhood to create a list of matching properties as possible future portfolio additions. The Advanced Search also allows users to create offers customer resource management software, so that they can put notes on properties and organize them into different folders.

And the one tool that separates Property Shark from its competitors is the Real Owners feature. Gafitescu said the tool helps users identify the actual owner of a property, as they are often hidden behind LLCs. She added that Property Shark has a research team that is tasked with calling listed numbers to verify the property’s ownership.

But the secret ingredient to the company’s success is the team’s commitment to providing accurate and tailored data to their clients, Gafitescu said. With their various departments, Gafitescu said there are teams working on sifting through the vast amounts of data and others who interact with clients to better understand their needs.

And as lead programmer, she feels comfortable in her role leading the team into the future with all the new features.
“I think with all these changes, Property Shark is going to be a really great website to go to and find your data,” Gafitescu said.

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