One thing life has learnt me is not to do something (like writing an email or blog post) when you're really upset. That's why this post was delayed for four (?) years.
In 2007 my wife and I was looking around for a new place to live in the Stockholm area. In a time when so much great things were done using the Internet, I was very disappointed with the different tools available in our search.
Fast forward up to today and much has happened (especially thanks to Booli & Boliga). However, there is still much (in my book) functionality that is missing. Here is the online tool I would like to use next time I looking for a new place to live (in Sweden)...
Inventory - all ...in your niche
For obvious reasons, I will use the one listing service that offers me the most listings (preferable also FSBO and foreclosures). However, it does not need to be everything, but as much as possible in the niche I'm looking for.
Today everyone is aiming for everything, but I believe there is a need for niche services. If one is just looking for an apartment down town Stockholm which is of state of art quality, or smaller apartments outside of town with a 'need' for renovation, or farms in the southern of Sweden. That's what one need. Nothing else. Not the choice of single family houses, farms, cottages and, especially a list consisting all of the nations municipalities. In other words, make it easier for me to find my niche.
An example of this is the blog 'Dagens Hem' which posted (no updates for a while though) the most awesome house listed right now.
Needless to say, the tool has to have a great mapping service where one can easily filter and get basic data. It's also important that any list is heavily integrated with the map (no pop-ups).
Below is a great example where one gets a lot of data without leaving the map.
Example from Zillow.
Detailed search through 'mechanical turk' approach
Besides the basics (addresses, type, size, price...) why not make it even easier for the user like style of architecture, bath tub, balcony south side and so on.
Below example is from the broker firm Svensk Fastighetsförmedling. They have more data on their own listings then on all listings out there, but why not solve it through 'mechanical turk' (for example students) to go through the new listings?
Another great search parameter would be 'monthly cost' which Hemnet now days displays for apartments.
Even better if one is able to update the underlying parameters down payment, rates and so on under 'My account'.
Define a search by a specific area or property
I believe that quite a few of the home hunters have a very defined geographical area where they are looking for a new listing. Maybe even a specific property. (In my last search, I was looking for listings in a specific property (a Co-op to be exact) for the last six months.
There are two ways to solve this:
1. the user draw an polygon on a map which is saved
(see a beta example from Booli)
2. tie all listings to the national property id (and get the coordinates & boundaries) and
the user mark the area/property using a map interface
Then a notification is sent when there is a listing on that very specific market.
Choice number two above is at least possible to implement in Sweden.
Support the 'open house' process
Most listing sites have functionality to 'save' a listing but normally not much more.
Plan the 'Open Home Sunday'
Why not make it easier to plan the 'Open Sundays' (big deal in Sweden) with a page with the listings in order after 'open hours'? Integrate it with a map and it would be even better.
At the 'open home'
Wouldn't be great to have a 'Evernote' functionality when doing the tour, to take notes and photos of the house that is uploaded (not just stored in your phone) to your 'Account' on the listing service?
Keep track of the process for each listing
Take away the hassle of keeping track of all listings when it comes to knowing where in the process they are or any changes to the listing. For example, days on the market, price changes, latest bid, add comments, photos, calculate the key figures like price per square meter (see more below), let me rate an apartment in different ways and compare with the others ones I'm looking at and so on.
Understanding the market
Take away the Excel part
I guess more people then I end up using spreadsheets to keeping track of all the listings, cost per square meter, loan per sqm in the Co-Op, my ranking of each listing, my cost of living there (no, not via pop up to different banks) and so on. Why not create a tool for this? I'll for sure spend more time on your site.
Publish the sales price
One obvious fact that is needed in the list above is the sales price for the listings you have been looking at in order for you to understand the market. I guess most people spend 3-6 months looking for a place. For singe family houses this is a problem. The data is available from the Swedish Land Survey (added by Booli in 2008). For apartments (Co-ops) it's a bit more complicated since this data isn't (yet) collected by the state. However, maybe this data one day will be released by Mäklarstatistik, which has 70% of deals on the market (it's co owned by the two largest brokerage firms in Sweden and the brokerage associations).
Local market data
A time saver in the effort to understand the local market is the efforts done to summarize data on a higher level. Done today by, for example by Hemnet (screenshot below), Mäklarstatistik and also Booli.
Example from Hemnet.
Example from Booli.
However, all of them on a municipality level. I want it much more narrow. For example, all sales in 'my' co-op the last 5 years or along a specific street.
Handle my investment
So, I have purchased a new place to live. Why let the buyer go away from your site? Make me come back. Help me to handle my investment. Let me add my finance deal, calculate the market value of my investment (on an ongoing basis) and make me aware of my LTV (loan to value). Make it obvious when 'my' bank is changing the rates, compare those with other banks. Inform me when an apartment is for sale in my co-op and so on. In a way, it's combining Zillow (screenshot below) with Mint.
That's all (I give a way for free...) ;-)
I feel much better now when this has finally left my shoulders.
Hemnet, Booli or anyone else, make me proud next time I'll be shopping around for a new place to live...