Location, location, location

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by Jay Zenner on December 26, 2010

What Trulia wants from Movity

I came across a news item that Trulia is buying Movity. Since I had never heard of Movity, I looked for its website. All I found on the homepage was an invitation to request an invitation to be a beta tester. On the About page this is what I found:

We bring transparency to geo-data and local content.

When you move, location matters. We answer the questions home buyers, renters, and movers want to know:

  • How safe is it?
  • Who lives next door?
  • How noisy will it be?
  • What do locals say?

End goal: Inform home buyers and renters of what the location is REALLY like.

Wow! I’m not sure what they’re going to end up with but I would have loved to be in on some of the product development brainstorming for that.

Everybody knows the three most important things in real estate are location, locations, and location. What opportunity did the folks that founded Movity see? Maybe it’s as simple as mashing together a lot of readily available data to better describe a neighborhood.

I think the opportunity they see might be a little more cynical. In June of 2009 one of the first posts on this site was called Experiment. In this post I described an experiment that I’ve repeated many times since. I go to REALTOR.com, which is still the most frequently visited real estate search tool and run a search in my market and one other market that I’m not familiar with. I don’t put any price parameters in so the first thing I see are the most expensive homes in the market. You would assume that these listings go to the best and most experienced agents. What I’m looking for is what the copy that the listing agents write says about the location…you know, one of the three most important things in real estate along with location and location.

It is always remarkable to me how little mention there is made about location. The reason I originally did the search in two markets was to see if my market was just a fluke. It’s not. In fact, what I discovered was that in markets I wasn’t familiar with the problem was exacerbated. When you already know the forest, focusing on the trees doesn’t always leave you feeling lost. But if you’re moving from Cleveland to Birmingham and have never been to Birmingham before its depressing how unsatisfactory those home descriptions are.

So, rather than try to do a better job of creating a sense of the community and the neighborhood, should we as agents simply wait for Movity to provide the insights? Only if you believe that Zestimates are reliably accurate predictors of market value.

One of the ways a good agent can really add value and earn their fees and commissions is by knowing and communicating the value of the community that the listed property is part of.

Earlier in the year I took over the marketing of a condo project near the eastern edge of Downtown Durham. I don’t know what specific data Movity would draw from to describe the neighborhood, but I’m sure it would show inferior schools, high crime and low home values.  These are not luxury condos but at about $225 per square foot they are pricier than most of the housing in town.  The location actually qualifies for some special financing opportunities because they are in an “under-served” part of town.

What the data won’t show is that this neighborhood is within blocks of the center of restaurant and nightlife activity in a hugely successful downtown revitalization. On the other side of the project a reclaimed mill has become an arts magnet and spark for the gentrification of depressed neighborhoods all around it.

The Realtor.com copy as well as a virtual tour (below) and a video that we produced focused more on the location and the experience of living there than the units themselves.

Sophisticated marketers will understand the importance of selling the benefits of the community and the limitations of profiles pulled from the various databases. In my experiments I’m still not seeing that there are many sophisticated marketers among the listing agents for these high end properties.

506 North Mangum

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