A frustration I recall when registering applicants during my days in and estate agency office was defining the area they would consider for their new home. The conversation normally began with a pretty broad area which we would then break down a bit further to define a pretty tight but not too restrictive area. I might then offer them a few specific properties where it was likely that there would be further alterations to streets or even sides of the street that they would consider.
Bearing in mind at that time I could write a list of specific streets onto the back of a paper applicant card it was something that could be accommodated on a manual basis. I remember even getting out a map and using a pen or highlighter to define areas and streets that were or weren’t suitable.
Buyers often complain agents call them about or send them information on too many properties that don’t fit their criteria and if they are using this to judge you on whether to list their own property with you it is something you want to get right.
With the development of property software, there are also challenges in terms of defining areas that a computer can recognise and this has led to defining a broad area in order to confirm that the net is big enough to catch the required areas. We are also in the age where many home buyers don’t register their details directly with an individual but rather online.
How do we replicate flexible area definition on our web site to make things easy for visitors? Agents that try to use maps to define the area have not found a flexible solution.
Yahoo have just introduced a ‘sketch up tool’ that can provide a more natural search interface and potentially provide the solution for both agent software input and property web site visitors. The person searching can draw their own boundary on the map to specify that they want their criteria to return properties within that boundary.
In the example here are local restaurant results and the image should give you an idea of how this type of application could be applied to property searching. You just draw the boundary, define your property type and search.
I know from experience how much estate agents love maps – and I know a number of agents wanting to integrate this type of search on their web sites will see this as a great function to replace those clunky pre-defined boundaries on an existing map.
One of the major changes in the internet over the next five years will be improved search functionality and the future search will be simple and more intuitive – sketch and search – bring it on!
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- New Rightmove ‘Draw a Search’ tool « Ben Harris | July 21, 2010