Industry

Forget the schools, tell me about the freaks!

Author
Brian Boero
No.
236
Please excuse the mess. This page is currently under construction.

My belief that unconventional local datasets or user-surfaced arcana have great value in online real estate was strengthened over the weekend when one of my neighbors raised a stink about “noisy children” riding bikes in her cul-de-sac.

I never knew this person was so unreasonable, but it turns out she has a reputation for telling 4 year-old children and their parents to stay off her street. It’s too bad RottenNeighbor did not exist when I was looking for homes a couple years ago.

RottenNeighbor, which allows people to ID, well, rotten neighbors, is one of several hyperlocal sites I covered in my presentation at Inman week before last. I also highlighted Everyblock, which presents data like building permits, liquor license applications and zoning proposals at a neighborhood level. And I talked about outside.in’s new Radar feature, which “shows you everything going on nearby, wherever you arefrom the stories on your street, to the events in your neighborhood, to the headlines in your city.”

Yes, RottenNeighbor is crass. And liquor license applications may seem trivial. But in the context of a real estate decision these things are huge.

They are also things real estate has historically tried to hide.

When I attended the inspection and final walk-through on my first home, the listing agent conveniently arranged to have my neighbor-to-be put her two dogs — which turned out to be pathological barkers — indoors. I should have known about it. If the coffee house three blocks down from me applies for a liquor license, I want to know about that too.

This is the sort of nitty-gritty information on neighborhoods you won’t find next to the mortgage calculator and map on a broker’s IDX feed. And therein lies the opportunity.

While most of your competitors still struggle to deliver listings online in a user friendly manner, you could be engaging people with the stuff upon which buying decisions are really made. While the other companies in your market botch basic email listing alerts, you could be delivering new value to buyers and sparking neighborhood conversations.

Uncovering intelligence and aiding decisions – that’s real estate at its best. But as we all know, that’s easier said than done, especially at the brokerage level. But you can at least offer up some of this newly aggregated information. Right now, RottenNeighbor, outside.in and Everyblock do not have APIs, but I suspect that may change. Everyblock already displays home listings; outside.in recently partnered with the Washington Post to create “Buzz Maps” of D.C. neighborhoods. This stuff is coming.

Better yet, don’t wait for someone else to aggregate the data.Take the person on your staff in charge of formatting that overpriced double-truck each week and have them pull crime blotters, building permit applications and local blog posts. Put the information in the hands of buyers — and indeed anyone in your market.

Today, you never win by hiding information. Winning is being the best at setting it free.

Brian Boero