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Re-Investigating the Lifestyle Search Opportunity

Lifestyle_Search_ScreenshotOnboard Informatics launched their lifestyle search API 7 years ago. SpatialMatch is the other one that comes to mind (purchased by HomeJunction I believe). I got to talking about lifestyle search with someone last night.

It makes sense conceptually to search the type of lifestyle you’re looking for, and houses in one go. Same as it makes sense to search for travel destinations and hotel/flight listings at the same time.

But neither of those scenarios happen regularly. None of the big portals (in either vertical) are built for that.

It begs the question…why?

Searching for a neighborhood, and a home/apartment, are two very different consumer mindsets. I (now) fundamentally believe it’s going to be really really really (never say never, right?) hard to merge those into one search experience. The neighborhood/destination is massively driven by knowledge derived from conversations with your social connections. The place to sleep (home/hotel/etc) is a transaction that is completed long AFTER you decide on the location.

I’m super curious — do you think lifestyle search will ever be a “thing” consumers buying/renting care about?

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • George Winston

    Airbnb does this better than anyone. In fact, they bought NabeWise for the very reason your curious about. Glad to discuss further.

    • But the AirBnB search experience is still fundamentally about properties, not the type of area you are trying to visit.

      • George Winston

        you’re obviously entitled to your opinion. i suspect that Airbnb would disagree with you 🙂

  • Spatial Match is one our or two IDX features. Of course we can follow visitor movements, whether they are looking at properties or lifestyle attributes. Although it might be a bit surprising, most visitors do not use the lifestyle features all that much, especially on the initial visit. The focus is on homes, first and foremost. I think there is a bit of a disconnect between the hype about hyper local lifestyle searching – and fundamental searching for homes that fit a person’s budget and personal preferences.

    Secondly, demographic information – like population, income, crime, etc- anything is hardly ever viewed.

    These are just our experiences – and we try to promote the lifestyle element as much as possible.

  • scottpetronis

    Hey, Drew! A little late to the discussion but wanted to chime in. We did a bunch of consumer research before launching our Lifestyle Search Engine API. While it’s far from the majority of the population, there is definitely a significant demographic that wants to find an “area” to live, then look at homes.

    Look at Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” http://time.com/money/collection/best-places-to-live-2015/ as a case in point. This is one of their top stories every year and has legs far beyond the publication date.

    The concept that we built our search around was to enable people to identify what things (lifestyle characteristics) are important to them so they could locate the places that best represent those characteristics. For example, I want to be in an area that’s great for families, has awesome schools and let’s me sneak away to play golf when I want to. I can plug those things in (including the relative importance of each) and out pop the areas that are my best fit. THEN I can see the homes for sale in that area.

    We saw some great successes but we also saw nearly everyone create a nearly identical experience. We also saw some cool uses such as landing pages for golfer’s, families with young kids, dog lovers, etc. But every site still has beds, baths, price and ZIP Code as the primary search.

    I’m happy to see Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate pushing the envelope on this (http://www.bhgrealestate.com/). And you can see some of our lifestyle scores on forsalebyowner.com. There’s a bit of a resurgence so you’ll see more in the coming months.

    The technology and data are all still alive and kicking. So if anyone wants to get creative, here’s an open invitation!

    • Scott
      I’m not in disagreement at all that there is a segment that wants to find an “area” to live in. What I’m arguing is that merging that area decision making, and the listing search…are two separate thought processes, and no one has succeeded in blending them completely together. Monetizing the “area” search is crazy, crazy hard…because buyers will likely make that area decision over the course of weeks or months, then forget about site/app X and go use some other site to find actual listings.

  • Hello Drew. I would say it is less about lifestyle driven search, and more about I like these homes, now show me what outside amenities (lifestyle related info) are in the proximity of the home(s) I like. A lifestyle search with the objective to find a home was an interesting idea, but doesn’t work in the real world. This is why we decided to develop SpatialMatch as a display “what’s around the home” tool, rather than app that has direct influence on the search results.

    BTW Thanks for the mention.

    • That’s what I was trying to get at. Once you find the listing, yes, almost everyone is interested in those other amenities. But those other amenities aren’t used as a filter in order to find the listings in the first place.

  • Peter Goldey

    Hey Drew – obviously a topic near and dear to my heart. Way back in the 1990’s I helped Realtor.com launch the first national “area search” for real estate and they saw ~30% of search traffic start there and then move to look at homes in the selected areas.

    The way I think they merge is when you include the availability of listings that also match the buyer’s financial and lifestyle desires in the area search process. Meaning, that in addition to all the lifestyle factors to identify areas, the homes on the market are also part of the search in real time. This can really help people understand which of the neighborhoods that meet there lifestyle desires are actually feasible for them from a purchase perspective.

    I agree that no one does a great job of this right now…the two searches are typically offered sequentially on websites right now. But our client BHG has taken a good first step I think, pulling some of our lifestyle attributes directly into the front page listings search (school performance, parks and transit availability). Really just a baby step, but great to see it happen.

    I think the combination is really useful for people looking for home right now – by including the lifestyle filters in the search, you get the benefit of finding new areas that may have just a handful of listings meeting your home purchase requirements that you wouldn’t think of otherwise.

    This works particularly well in larger markets with lots of potential neighborhood that meet commuting and other requirements.

    Thanks for mentioning our Lifestyle API!

    – Pete

  • Elena Legeros

    I agree that searching for a neighborhood and searching for a home are different mindsets, but I disagree that these stages happen sequentially. Consumers browse listings throughout their home buying process. The problem with lifestyle search is that lifestyle data is only marginally helpful to consumers. Data lacks context. People want the inside scoop. Like you said, lifestyle choices are generally influenced by conversations with the community, people with inside knowledge who reveal the anomalies in the neighborhood, share personal experience and advice. The challenge is how do you filter and present this information in a way that’s helpful to consumers while they are also searching for homes? The question isn’t if lifestyle search will be a thing consumers care about; we know consumers care about lifestyle. The question is whether it’s possible to create a great user interface that provides community knowledge within a listing search experience. That’s what we’re working toward at https://wikirealty.com

  • I agree that searching for a neighborhood and searching for a home are different mindsets, but I disagree that these stages happen sequentially. Consumers browse listings throughout their home buying process. The problem with lifestyle search is that lifestyle data is only marginally helpful to consumers. Data lacks context. People want the inside scoop. Like you said, lifestyle choices are generally influenced by conversations with the community, people with inside knowledge who reveal the anomalies in the neighborhood, share personal experience and advice. The challenge is how do you filter and present this information in a way that’s helpful to consumers while they are also searching for homes? The question isn’t if lifestyle search will be a thing consumers care about, we know consumers care about lifestyle. The question is whether it’s possible to create a great user interface that provides community knowledge within a listing search experience. That’s what we’re working toward at https://wikirealty.com

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