June 7, 2015
by Shade Lapite
Data is everywhere and increasingly consumers are going online to conduct their own real estate searches. Does this mean the need for REALTORS® will disappear? Innovation expert David Eaves thinks not.
Eaves shared his thoughts at OREA’s recent REGeneration conference. His talk, The Next Big Thing in Real Estate, covered a lot of ground, including the impact of data on real estate. Anyone with basic online search skills can conduct a property search, Eaves reminded his audience, and he listed websites that are championing easier access to listing data such as Zillow, Trulia and Zoocasa. But REALTORS® will always matter, he went on, because service should be at the core of real estate, not data.
The two areas are closely related. To offer the best service, a REALTOR® needs to know something the consumer doesn’t, Eaves said, which means tomorrow’s REALTORS® will need to be neighbourhood specialists.
How do you become an expert on a neighbourhood? It’s all about using the right tools to filter big data.
"Social media has persuaded individuals to share more personal information than ever before”
Big data is a broad concept that describes the massive amounts of information being gathered across the globe. Before the internet any collected information was stored in fixed locations – a filing cabinet in the basement of a school for student records, locally networked computers in a hospital for patient profiles, government computers for national census results. Now the combination of digital data and broadband internet has made information mobile. Data can criss-cross the globe in seconds, it can be merged with other bodies of data or cross-referenced. And the volume of information has exploded. Social media has successfully persuaded individuals to share more personal information than ever before. Governments are becoming more transparent and sharing their information. Communities of academics are revealing data on everything from global warming to food availability. At the other end of the scale, we have apps crowdsourcing users for feedback on niche interests such as the best city walks, the best Hakka restaurants, the friendliest cafes, etc. Together, this huge amount of data builds to form a picture of our world, our cities, and our neighbourhoods.
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All that a REALTOR® needs to learn more about a neighbourhood is an application that efficiently filters, analyzes and contextualizes a particular search item. Often these tools are in the public domain and accessible to clients and customers. But pulling this information and packaging it up for a client will save them time and effort. It shows a higher level of service and demonstrates that REALTORS® really will do the homework.
Here are some user-friendly starter suggestions for applications:
- Foursquare – The service app - Foursquare is a location-based network that offers comprehensive lists of local services. It has over 50 million active users who update it constantly by adding such things as the latest restaurant, gym, bookstore or organic food grocer that they encounter. Users also add comments and recommendations so others can assess the quality of the offering. All a REALTOR® needs to do is search for the services their clients are interested in using to help them assess the appeal of a given neighbourhood.
- Transit App – The public transit app - If the buyers don’t drive, then the availability of public transit and transport links play a huge role in choosing a home. REALTORS® can use Transit App to design journey plans illustrating how long it will take their clients to commute to work and what their transit options are.
- Map My Walk – The walking app - This app works well for pet-owner-clients and the outdoorsy types. REALTORS® can compile a list of the walks closest to the chosen neighbourhood. The app also features durations and elevations for each walk so users can gauge the difficulty.
- Compare School Ranking – The school app - Many a house had been sold on the strength of local schools. This website offers a wealth of school metrics for parents to consider. A basic search is as simple as choosing between elementary and secondary schools and adding a postal code. The website will then list nearby schools and provide each school’s academic ranking in Ontario, percentage of special needs pupils, parents’ average income, achievement gender gap (which sex achieves better grades in the school), overall rating out of 10 and whether the school’s academic trend is up or down. The data is compiled by the Fraser Institute and uses publicly-available information such as provincial test results to rank and compare schools.
There are innumerable websites and apps that offer interesting neighbourhood data. For REALTORS® willing to pay for a premium service it’s easy to outsource the research work. There are companies that will charge a monthly fee and aggregate a ton of neighbourhood data for REALTORS® to pass on to clients.
Big data is all around us. If REALTORS® offer that data in combination with their market knowledge and experience, the quality of their service and in turn the consumer demand for it, can only increase.
Shade Lapite is the web editor at the Ontario Real Estate Association.
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