Matching Your Home to Your Lifestyle

The perfect home may be a hot spot away

Ocean breezes; able to walk to shops and public transport; stunning mountain views. These aren’t phrases for advertising a holiday getaway—they are descriptions used to sell houses I’ve bought.

In the U.S., we’ve been accustomed to buying homes based on their physical characteristics instead of our lifestyle and neighborhood preferences. While the number of bedrooms and the size of the garage are important features, more and more people want their dream home to truly reflect their needs, aspirations and social connections.

“Lifestyle search” is one of the fastest growing ideas in residential real estate that promises to match the best properties with the right owners. Using neighborhood attributes, from demographics to the location of schools and other civic and social amenities, lifestyle search uses spatial analysis to match buyers’ desires to the best property.

Searching in this manner is hyper-local and smart because it supplements the realtors knowledge with local information and the latest socio-demographic statistics. Any factor or variable can be considered and the outcome weighted by how desirable or undesirable each is to a person’s need.

Want to live within two miles of the best school, within walking distance to a park but away from the highway or noisy industrial area? Lifestyle search will find an ideal location by combining all the options and desires, then highlighting the best candidates using hotspot analysis, which compiles this large amount of information and visually shows which locations meet the most criteria.

Thanks to real estate apps, lifestyle search is changing how people think about buying a house. Home buyers (and realtors?) now have the ability to instantly understand neighborhoods, compare like homes and search based on location. It is no wonder these apps are some of the most popular downloads on smartphones.

Some experts have commented that lifestyle search is really just an extension of the analysis that has been going on in commercial real estate for a decade or more. Even so, empowering everyone with better tools to help make a decision about the most important financial investment of their lives has to be a good thing.

Do you think lifestyle search and smartphone apps will change the way we buy homes?

Simon Thompson

About Simon Thompson

Simon Thompson is responsible for global marketing strategies for Esri’s commercial sector. He is a keynote speaker, author, and seminar leader who has lived and worked on 5 continents.
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5 Comments

  1. Stacy Biener says:

    I think lifestyle search and smart phone apps are extremely promising especially to Buyer’s Agents who need additional tools to continue to secure their buyer agency relationships. By having tools that allow us to perform strategic searches based on demographics, psychographics, and neighborhood attributes combined with the physical characteristics of a home would give us ammunition on today’s buyer who has so much information at their fingertips. Granted, buyers today can find this information if they dig deep, but often times the data is inaccurate, clumsy, and in disparate places with no efficient way to layer the information for intelligent decision-making.

    By asking very pointed questions, I really understand what’s important to my client prior to jumping in the car. For example, I learned that my buyer is looking for a two-bedroom, two-bath home, walking distance to their children’s school, a thirty-minute or less commute to the airport, and the desire to be in a community with other like-minded professionals. The end result, eight properties that fit the criteria which can be ranked based on the weight of importance for my client. Not only would this save us time and gas money, but it would enable me to provide value over and above what my client finds on their own reconnaissance. It’s a needs analysis in business jargon, which is so seldom done in residential real estate. Could this be the tool that puts us back in the driver’s seat literally?

    I decided to take it to the street and ask three top buyer’s agents from Rancho Santa Fe, Newport Beach, and the Los Angeles Westside. “Buyer’s agents need to change their mindset and value their time as professionals. This is rarely done, says Bibbi Herrmann, a top Coldwell Banker Rancho Santa Fe agent. The reality is we drive around based on what we find for clients, but rarely do we do a deep dive prior to getting in the car. Accurate lifestyle characteristics would be useful when we need to ‘cross the moat’ and go into areas where we have little intelligence but need to penetrate in order to generate revenue.” Staci Hughes, a top Newport Beach agent with Re/Max Fine Homes concurs, “it is easy to match physical attributes, but much more challenging to understand lifestyle characteristics because you have to search through mounds of data that is in distinct places and often times, overwhelming.” According to Nili Hudson, a top Los Angeles Westside agent with Gibson International, “this type of search could be especially useful for our out of state referrals or relocation clients as these buyers are less familiar with the areas, but have some very specific criteria.”

    Although the jury is still out whether these smart apps would be successful in solidifying the buyer’s agency relationship, there seems to be enough interest from all three top buyer’s agents to prompt the next question: When will it be available and for how much?

  2. This is a great conversation. Lifestyle search can be extremely beneficial not only to home buyers but to Brokers and Agents as well.

    I have shared my thoughts here:
    http://blog.onboardinformatics.com/2011/03/the-changing-landscape-of-real-estate-search/

  3. Matt Felton says:

    If someone had told me a few years ago that I’d be able to reach into my pocket and create a map that shows the personality of my neighborhood, I’d have thought that was a bit of a stretch. But the first time that I put my address into a lifestyle search and learned that my neighbors and I are “Sophisticated Squires”, I felt like someone had just read my GIS horoscope. It told me that I like to do my own lawn work and home improvement (true), that I like to BBQ on my gas grill (frequently), that I played volleyball (used to), and that I owned a minivan (well, my wife drives it mostly, unless I need to carry a bunch lumber or mulch for the aforementioned activities). I only wish my net worth was as high as my neighbors’ apparently are…

    As the Director of Research for a Commercial Real Estate firm, I’m continually working on the other side of this relationship—bringing businesses closer to the people they serve. Working with retail, office, medical, and industrial clients, I’m continually tapping into lifestyle data and making maps that tell them were they need to open their next location. I love interrogating the data to help retail clients figure out how they can open their next store near their best customer type. As healthcare services expand, the data has been useful to align medical services with the neighborhoods they serve—should their new office focus on hip replacements and diabetes, or volleyball injuries and home-improvement induced trauma? Even office and industrial clients want to know, “where is my best suited workforce, and how can I be near them?”

    As this technology moves more seamlessly onto the smart phone, we’re seeing new possibilities of combining rich collections of data with the on-the-ground expertise of our brokers. So at the end of the day, when they’re touring a market, they not only look cool with their iPad, but they’re helping their clients ask better questions and get richer answers. In this new economy, bad decisions hurt even more than they used to, and this Sophisticated Squire plans to leverage the heck out of technology for finding the best possible way forward.

  4. Krista White says:

    One danger I forsee with this technology is its potential for decreasing diversity in neighborhoods. Most of my neighbors have wildly different political views than I do. That keeps me from living in an echo chamber, where I only hear ideas that are agreeable to me.

    I’m not knocking the technology. I think it’s great that people can more carefully plan home buying – which is likely the single largest expenditure they will make in their lifetimes. Unless we’re careful, this application of GIS will easily serve to reinforce the human habit of self-segregation politically, racially, and psychologically by adding a spatial dimention.

  5. Patience Grace says:

    This sounds great!
    For people who already know what they want exists they can find the like-minded community they want to be part of.
    For those who are looking for like-minded people to help renew neighbourhoods, is there an App which helps link individuals to each other to buy joint properties in proximity to support their own renovations and community-building which brings others along? I’m thinking permaculture here, but am sure there would be others who are innovators in other ways who aren’t necessarily in a development organisation, but more niche market.