Consumers may soon expect listing portals to offer "lifestyle search" capabilities in order to help them find not just the home of their dreams, but the community and neighborhood that best fit their needs.

Three listing portals — one operated by a real estate franchisor, another by a multiple listing service, and the third by a newspaper — are preparing to roll out lifestyle search capabilities developed by or in conjunction with Onboard Informatics, according to a new report from the consulting firm WAV Group.

Onboard Informatics is offering the "first true lifestyle search engine," delivered as an application programming interface (API), the WAV Group’s Marilyn Wilson said in her report, "The Lifestyle Search Opportunity."

Onboard’s API allows users to tap into a database with 1.6 million "points of interest" on more than 75,000 neighborhoods, including school ratings and test scores, population demographics, local points of interest, and ratings and reviews. Wilson said Onboard Informatics has been a WAV Group client, but is not currently.

Another company, Home Junction Inc., is launching a search product, Spatial Match, with lifestyle search overlays allowing consumers to choose criteria like shopping or lifestyle to find hot spots that match their criteria, the report said.

Another API solution offered by eNeighborhoods, Envoy, allows brokers and MLSs to display demographic information to consumers via map overlays.

Still other companies, like NabeWise, are tapping user-generated content to build localized information, the report said. NabeWise invites agents to contribute content to the site that helps consumers find neighborhoods that are ideal for families, empty-nesters, the wealthy, the gay and lesbian community, seniors and even "beautiful people."

In talking to consumers, WAV Group found that Internet data exchange (IDX) property search sites employed by brokers and MLSs often don’t offer tools that can help house hunters identify their ideal neighborhood.

"There is no way for them to factor in the ability to participate in their key interests or frequent their favorite retail establishments from current IDX searches," the report said. "IDX is simply just not enough anymore."

Real estate franchisor EXIT Realty Corp. International is working with Onboard to add lifestyle search capabilities to its website.

A prototype of the lifestyle search tool that EXIT Realty will offer employs four sliders to assign relative importance to factors "Fun, Hip and Trendy," "Family Friendly," "Excellent schools," and "Cultural Activities." Users can also can input median home price and commute time to destination before selecting "Recommend neighborhoods."

After reviewing the recommended neighborhoods, users can click to receive more neighborhood details and review properties recommended by the broker hosting the lifestyle search.

"This mock-up demonstrates how a lifestyle listings search can be seamlessly integrated with the site’s current IDX vendor so that consumers can continue to drill down on properties once they find a community they are interested in," the WAV Group report said.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based MLSListings Inc. and the New York Daily News are also working with Onboard to launch lifestyle search capabilities early next year, the report said.

Most people don’t associate themselves with a handful of ZIP codes or boroughs, but "connect with the energy, amenities and overall vibe of hundreds of micro-neighborhoods" that are sometimes only a few blocks long, New York Daily News executive Steve Lynas told WAV Group.

Incorporating lifestyle data is one way brokers, agents and franchises can build multifaceted websites capable of competing with third-party sites like Zillow and Trulia, according to another recent WAV Group report, "The Property Search Delta."

Consumers use sites like Zillow and Trulia as a "launch pad" for property searches, even though agents, brokers, MLSs and franchises may have more current and accurate listings data, the report said.

Consumers keep returning to third-party sites "because of the great tools and depth of information that consistently outshines even the best broker and franchise websites," WAV Group consultants Victor Lund and Michael Audet said in the report.

The report recommends that brokers, agents and franchises seek out "single source" vendors who can merge data from multiple MLSs, sold data, tax data, market data, neighborhood data and lifestyle data into one, easy-to-use listing detail page.

"This vendor should manage your listing syndication as a component to the service to insure that consumers referred from third-party websites are taken directly to your listing, which is presented in a superior way," the report said.

"Only syndicate teaser content to third-party websites to lean the delta back in the direction of the broker franchise site as the richest source of listing information."

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