Real estate detail-view pages all look pretty much the same, don’t they? A few photos, the details about the house … maybe a map. Maybe the whole thing is well designed or just framed in without any design, straight from the feed provider (you know, those gray-background detail-view pages that look like they were designed by an accountant).
The data on each detail-view is the same as everyone else that subscribes to the same feed. I bet consumers notice that. If your site is giving them the same data about the thing they want to buy as everyone else in your market, how is your brand different again? It’s like when you’re shopping for something online and all the sites you go to are displaying the exact same information.
If you have a good relationship with your code vendor (or if you have an in-house technical development team), maybe there’s more data to display on that list view. Obviously, your multiple listing service may have rules about what you can and can’t display with listings. Usually you can put whatever you want on your own listings, though. So go ahead and make your listings better.
One data source for information that’s relevant to people buying a house comes from Walk Score. For any given address, Walk Score will return a number. That number is a reflection on how far it is from amenities like grocery stores, restaurants and so on. Using their API (application programming interface: a way for your Web platform to talk directly to Walk Score and integrate their data into your Web site), you can display a Walk Score right into your detail-view pages (check out “option 2” on that page).
You could go even further by using Walk Score’s map tile. Then you’ll have a map showing the address of the property plus nearby amenities. This is a whole mass of contextual information about a property that isn’t on a standard Google Maps integration.
Sure some things could be better for real estate integration of Walk Score
Of course, there are a few things I wish were different. It’d be nice if the tile were interactive so visitors could zoom in and out (sorry, the outbound link for a bigger version doesn’t really do it for me in this case). It would also be nice if the amenities could be toggled on and off so consumers could see the map itself a little better. Basically it’d be great if instead of a tile it worked like Google Maps but with local amenities on a toggle switch. …CONTINUED
I also have mixed feelings on the “Find out your home’s Walk Score” feature. Without my Web strategist hat on, I love the feature. But it’s something that will drag a customer off your site. Ultimately, I think it provides value because it allows the customer to see how Walk Score puts a number on “walkability” using something familiar to the customer: their own house. Once the customer knows how the math works to calculate walkability on their own home, the Walk Score on other properties is a lot more useful to them.
Also note that customers are likely to enter their own address into that search box, and probably a lot faster than they’re going to enter it into your lead-generation form. I’ll leave that statement right there for pondering.
Now with Public Transit
You may have noticed that Google Maps has been rolling out public transit directions lately. Basically, any transit service that submits their information can get their bus routes, train routes etc to be added in as an option for getting directions. Walk Score is integrating this feed into their Walk Score map tiles. This means that if you’re wondering if you can walk to a train to get to work from that house the Walk Score map tile will tell you. The closeness of public transit isn’t currently incorporated into the actual Walk Score number, but I hear they’re working on that.
More than a lifestyle housing-search tool
A lot of talk is thrown around about approaching real estate from a lifestyle perspective: eco brokers, equine brokers, hip condo brokers, etc. Using Walk Score, any real estate site can start offering contextual information about property that is directly relevant to a specific lifestyle: people who want to be able to walk to places from their house.
But there’s also some data which suggests that being located near public transit can have a positive impact on the value of a home as well. The article linked here notes that this varies depending on the station; more research could be done on this. But it passes the smell test: easier access to a community’s resources probably translates into value for the homeowner.
If you’re looking for a way to differentiate your real estate search from others in your market, using the tools available via the Walk Score API could be a way to go.
Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors.
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