Don’t call it a comeback
I been here for years
Rockin’ my peers
Puttin’ suckers in fear
– LL COOL J, Momma Said Knock You Out
Neighborhood research sites come and go. But none of them have seemed to stick around for very long.
Word that Homethinking has added some very cool neighborhood matching tools excites me as a technology watcher, but I have to wonder, sadly, if it will ever get used.
On the surface neighborhood research seems to make perfect sense. People should want to learn more about the neighborhood they want to live in. What are the schools in the area? How do they perform? How close is the nearest Starbucks? How walkable is the neighborhood (see Measuring Walkability with Walk Score)?
But the graveyard of neighborhood research tools is also littered with recent attempts to make this work.
The ghosts of Neighboroo (see Neighboroo Adds New Data To Neighborhood Research) and Neighborhoodmatch (see Finding the Perfect Location with Neighborhoodmatch.com) still haunt us. High profile plays like YourStreet that are still with us have radically shifted gears (see Yourstreet is Now Empty) – and even Terabitz switched its focus to becoming an enterprise web site provider.
Still, that doesn’t stop others from trying:
Homezilla is a new site north of the border that takes on neighbourhood (Canadian spelling, natch) search. The overall experience is pretty usable – results are dynamically generated and plotted on a Google Map. I really liked how you can layer in different data sources and that there were several ‘unique’ choices I could pick; the availability of liquor stores and bars were especially appreciated.
Problem is – the data was poor to terrible. A search in my old neighborhood in Vancouver revealed neither the elementary school I went to nor any of the pubs that I frequented later in life.
Nevertheless, I liked the experience. Largely because Homezilla continues the encouraging trend of search tools adding ‘real world’ filters that people can actually use in their searches; like proximity to transit options (see Estately Comes to Portland).
(Speaking of which, would one of the search portals please layer in access to FIOS and/or 3G cellular coverage as a search criteria. Geeks like me who are looking for a new home demand it.)
UpMyStreet is a British web site that tries a slightly different approach – rather than a fancy map mashup, UpMyStreet parses all of its neighborhood data into paragraph form. It creates a much more academic experience but one that is frankly, a bit muddled. I found it a bit confusing to navigate and the advertising very distracting.
That said, it was a tool that I could see myself using – at least tangentially alongside another search site.
The problem with any of these sites, may very well be that neighborhood research is only a small and limited part of the real estate search process for some (if at all) and one that is quickly overtaken by the hunt for a specific home.
And so I suspect that without having listing data attached to the site, a dedicated neighborhood search tool simply can not go very far.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for this type of information. I just think it means it’s up to the property search sites to do a better job of helping consumers decide which neighborhoods fit their needs.