Trulia’s claim to fame – and a key component in their success – is the amount of information they provide users on not only a specific property, but the surrounding areas. Think crime rates, demographic breakdowns, median house prices, and more... By including this information in neighborhood profiles, map searches, and listing pages, they managed to win the hearts and trust of homebuyers, as well as score priority placement with Google.
Here at Local Logic, we’re on a mission to help our clients better match people with their ideal locations by putting lifestyle characteristics on the map. So the question was, what’s the best way to present this information visually?
Broadly speaking, there are two major ways to display non-property information on a map: by overlaying a lifestyle heatmap or with neighborhood points of interest. But before we dig deeper, let’s quickly cover what each of these options look like.
Heatmaps allow data to be represented on a map through color-coding. In its most common form, green is good and red is bad (although that’s not always the case). This helps buyers hone in on an area that corresponds with their needs without knowing precisely what’s around.
Points of interest, on the other hand, show users exactly where the amenities they’re looking for are located – such as nearby gyms, hospitals, schools, etc. Typically, additional information (like the company’s name and rating) is provided by hovering over any given amenity.
So what’s the better solution – heatmaps or points of interest?
When homebuyers reach the map search section of a real estate website, they’ve usually targeted their results based on budget and approximate location. This is where they rely on further – non-property-related – information to identify the top contenders.
Instead, we adjusted our algorithm to account for the importance of proximity vs. abundance. This way, a high score on nearby cafés would require both proximity and abundance, whereas close proximity to one school will be scored very high.
These factors vary widely from user to user, but for example’s sake, let’s say they’re looking for a quiet home in proximity to a good school, and nearby public transit.
The fact is, homebuyers consider multiple location criteria when choosing a property. In fact, over 2/3 of users select more than one lifestyle factor in their search. This implies that the user has to be able to consider several characteristics simultaneously.
Theoretically, both the heatmap overlay and POIs can co-exist. However, integrating points of interest can overwhelm the map when multiple points of interest are added – especially in dense urban areas.
Ultimately, we decided to prioritize heatmaps because they do not crowd the map, even when several criteria are selected. Instead, we implemented a system that allows users to weigh the importance of each factor, automatically adjusting the colors to reveal their best options.
The perfect neighborhood is a mix of ambiance and amenities. When it comes to choosing a neighborhood (or even a street), every buyer is different. Some want to live in a quiet area near grocery stores (two of our most popular criteria), while others are looking for vibrancy and coffee shops. Regardless of their preferences, most buyers are looking for a neighborhood that feels right and has nearby amenities to complement their lifestyle.
And then there’s abundance vs. proximity… This is important to note because abundance is not important for all neighborhood amenities. For instance, living near one great school would likely take precedence over living near lots of schools. Other amenities where the value comes from proximity rather than abundance include gyms, hospitals, and community centers.
In these cases, it may seem like points of interest are the best route. However, given that users have multiple preferences to consider, we’ve found that overcrowding the map is all too easy to do. Instead, we adjusted our algorithm to account for the importance of proximity vs. abundance. This way, a high score on nearby cafés would require both proximity and abundance, whereas close proximity to one school will be scored very high.
Speaking of schools… 5 out of 10 homebuyers with children consider school quality to be a major influence in their neighborhood search. Recognizing the value of a great education, we’ve implemented a separate neighborhood POI overlay for schools (although, this too can be included in a heatmap). Our data backs up this decision, with 50% of clicks in our Local Content solution coming from buyers seeking additional information on nearby school options.
Historically, overlaying neighborhood points of interest on a map is how real estate websites have displayed nearby amenities. This is in major part due to the availability and easy implementation of 3rd party data providers (such as Yelp or Foursquare).
However, given that homebuyers are searching for neighborhoods that feel right AND come with their chosen amenities, we’ve found that customized heatmaps provide more targeted search results – and as such, bring in much higher conversion rates.
With Local Logic’s advanced algorithm, users can easily pinpoint the neighborhoods that fit their lifestyle preferences, while keeping their most influential factors in mind.
And the best part?
We’ll handle aggregating the data and implementing our search functionality – so you can focus your energy on closing highly qualified leads.