Maponics kicks neighborhood boundary data up a notch

Improvements will help real estate sites innovate

You may soon notice improvements in the way many real estate sites integrate neighborhood data into their search experience — a practice that can include anything from powering school-based listing search to showing demographic breakdowns of small communities.

Maponics — a data provider whose clients include Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com — has rolled out an updated and enhanced version of its neighborhood-boundary data set.

Screen shot showing Trulia's use of Maponics boundary data to search for homes by school attendance zone.
Screen shot showing Trulia's use of Maponics boundary data to search for homes by school attendance zone.

The firm’s product is a key ingredient of many of its clients’ real estate search tools, which rely on the data to give consumers the ability to filter listings based on geographic areas, like ZIP codes, neighborhoods, subdivisions and school attendance zones.

Many of Maponics’ clients haven’t integrated the new boundary data set yet, but spokesman Will Marlow said the firm expects it will be “adopted across the board.”

“Neighborhoods 2.0″ provides better accuracy and organization of neighborhood types, as well as more flexibility in how clients can use neighborhood data to color their search experiences.

Since so many sites rely on the Maponics’ boundary data, those improvements could bubble up across real estate sites in the form of new or improved features for consumers.

The boundary data set covers 159,000 neighborhoods in the United States and Canada, more than 20,000 neighborhoods in Europe, and more than 11,000 neighborhoods across South America, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.

Maponics has recategorized neighborhoods “to reflect their unique features more effectively,” as part of the update, breaking them down into four hierarchical layers: “macro,” “neighborhood,” “sub-neighborhood” and “residential.” That mapping data will make it easier for clients to filter for neighborhoods based on type and application.

Neighborhoods 2.0 also supports “add-on” data of other geographies and analytics. So real estate sites that use it may be able to cook up new and improved ways to weave neighborhood information into their user experience, Marlow said.

In addition to helping sites hone their neighborhood boundary-based search, that could mean anything from showing more precise data on the real estate trends, crime levels, school quality and demographic makeups of neighborhoods to providing people with the option to search based on that criteria.

Maponics offers that data in its “Context” data package, which it debuted last year.

“The contextual analytics data will be more useful to real estate sites in the new framework,” Marlow said of the Context data set.

“The previous data structure allowed targeting based on limited criteria,” said Maponics Product Manager Steve Zuckerman in a statement. “With more granular and better-defined data, Neighborhoods 2.0 enables increased flexibility to optimize location-based targeting.”

Due to the improved organization of its boundaries, the data set should also support tools that would let consumers compare and contrast neighborhoods — a feature currently only offered by FindTheBest Homes.

The product rollout dovetails with a push among real estate sites to more effectively integrate lifestyle considerations into the online listing and neighborhood search experience.

Just today, RealtyTrac announced an agreement that will allow remax.com and affiliated Re/Max websites to put school, demographic and environmental data around for-sale listings.

The firm previously raised the hackles of some real estate agents when it mixed neighborhood characteristics — including the locations of sex offenders and toxic dumps — into listing pages. It’s since migrated that data to property pages that exclude listing data.

Fypio, a real estate search app that’s about to launch out of beta testing, will guide buyers toward listings based on their desired neighborhood characteristics, such as safety or access to top-rated schools.

These companies say they are integrating neighborhood data into online real estate search to meet the needs of consumers. But some observers have said that making it easy for people to search for homes based on neighborhood data could ultimately aggravate the social and economic divides that shape many neighborhoods.

Onboard Informatics is another data provider that can open up new avenues for online real estate clients when it tweaks its data products. CoreLogic, Redfin, Corcoran Group and The Washington Post are among the companies that license its neighborhood-boundary product data set, said Jonathan Bednarsh, president of Onboard Informatics.

The Onboard Informatics data set has long featured a hierarchical structure, Bednarsh said, but the company also monitors mentions of neighborhoods on social media platforms in order to help developers determine the most important ones for consumers.

Last year, Onboard Informatics joined Maponics in offering school attendance zone data.


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