Technology

School attendance zone data now available from two providers: Onboard Informatics and Maponics

Real estate listing portals use data to let homebuyers search by school

Onboard Informatics is now offering school attendance zone data to real estate listings sites, spelling competition for Maponics, the dominant provider of such information.

Onboard Informatics’ product also underscores a growing appetite among listing sites for increasingly granular information on schools, and may pave the way for more real estate companies to offer their website visitors the ability to search schools based on attendance zones.

Many listing sites have shown properties’ school districts, which often encompass multiple schools. But recently, major sites like Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com and Redfin have begun to enable users to search homes based on school attendance boundaries, revealing to consumers the precise schools that they could expect their children to have the opportunity to attend.

Realtors Property Resource (RPR) LLC, a data service available only to members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), has been licensing Maponics school attendance boundary data for certain areas since the end of 2010.

Recent studies have confirmed that attendance zone data is often crucial to homebuyers, showing that a majority of buyers weigh school attendance zones when searching for homes and pay hefty premiums for properties served by top-ranked schools.

Some of Onboard Informatics’ clients, many of whom are real estate companies, may soon join listing portals and RPR in offering school attendance zone data.

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A number are currently in the process of integrating its attendance zone data, which Onboard said covers 70 percent of the student population, into their search capability, according to a company spokesperson.

Onboard already provides other data — like demographics, home value estimates and other school data besides attendance boundaries — to eight of the 10 real estate companies that posted the highest sales volume in 2012, according to RISMedia’s 2013 “Power Broker Report.”

The spokesperson would not specify which of its clients may use the attendance zone data to beef up their school-based search capability because the deals to license the data have not been finalized, she said.

Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Coldwell Banker, Houlihan Lawrence and Century 21, which already has a search-by-attendance zone tool, are just a few of the firm’s many real estate company clients.

In serving up school attendance zone data, Onboard is attempting to beat Maponics at its own game. Maponics has been the dominant provider of school attendance zones to major listing sites.

Trulia, Estately, Redfin and Zillow all use Maponics data to enable users to search by school attendance zone.

Trulia-school

Screen shot of home search on Trulia.com using school attendance boundary zone.

In addition to offering attendance zone data, these sites also typically supplement attendance zone data with school rankings and profiles. Maponics and Onboard both provide such information.

But education organization GreatSchools seems to be the most popular provider of that data on listing sites.

GreatSchools also relicenses data from Maponics to some real estate companies, and uses it to power a search tool on its own website that shows school attendance zones.

Century 21 also uses Maponics attendance zone data to offer search-by-attendance zone on its listing site. It’s possibly the only real estate franchisor site to offer that search capability.

Century 21, like Redfin, Trulia and other real estate companies, currently licenses data from both Maponics and Onboard.

The firms have traditionally specialized in different data, but recently have begun to encroach on each other’s wheelhouses.

“We’ve really focused our energy much more so on the depth of the content vs. the boundary side of things,” said Scott Petronis, chief product officer at Onboard. “That’s changing on both sides — Maponics is offering more content; we’re offering more boundaries.”

With Onboard reportedly offering its data products to existing real estate company clients, more of Century 21’s peers may soon follow in the company’s footsteps.

It may even be possible that sites that license data from both Maponics and Onboard, like Trulia, may scrap Maponics as a school attendance zone provider in favor of Onboard.

Asked if Trulia would use Onboard data for its search-by-attendance zone capability, a spokesperson said that it did not have any “new insights to share publicly.”

Onboard’s data release comes as housing observers continue to digest recent studies that highlight, more than ever, the importance of school information to homebuyers.

recent study conducted by Redfin found that buyers pay an average of $50 more per square foot for homes served by top-ranked schools than for those served by average-ranked schools.

Even within the same neighborhoods, in fact, buyers will pay substantially more for homes served by top-ranked schools than they do for comparable homes served by average-ranked schools, according to the study.

In a recent realtor.com survey, 3 out of 5 respondents said that school attendance boundaries would be a factor in choosing a home, and most of that group said they’d be willing to go above budget or give up amenities to have their children go to their school of choice.

The online survey, conducted this summer, found that of those who said school attendance boundaries were important:

  • 23.6 percent would pay 1 to 5 percent above budget.
  • 20.7 percent would pay 6 to 10 percent above budget.
  • 9 percent would pay 11 to 20 percent above budget.
  • 40.3 percent would not go above budget.

While attendance zone data may be the most coveted school information, it’s also perhaps the most challenging to obtain.

A number of data providers have managed to compile comprehensive information on school districts and test scores, but they have had a harder time wrangling attendance boundaries.

That’s because doing so often requires working individually with schools, some of which cannot easily transfer the data.

“Sometimes it’s just a paper list … of addresses,” said Petronis, the chief product officer at Onboard. “Literally, in some cases, you have to trace a map.”

Some schools have even required Onboard to file requests under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain it, most likely in order to avoid the work of having to organize it themselves, Petronis said.

Further complicating matters is that many school attendance zones are constantly changing.

Mark Miller, manager of Maponics’ schools product family, said about 15 percent of school districts boundaries, which encompass school attendance zones, shift every year.

For now, Maponics appears to have an edge on its challenger: The data firm told Inman News that its attendance zone data covers more than 80 percent of the student population and is updated on a quarterly basis.

Onboard, meanwhile, said that its school attendance zone data covers 70 percent of the student population, and that it will be updated twice a year.