Web sites offer lifestyle-oriented home searches
Home buyers often embark on their home search armed with a vision of their ideal property, a laundry list of features they would love to find or can't live without.
Several bedrooms. Large kitchens. A yard big enough for a garden. But what if you prize home traits that extend beyond property lines? Good schools, ethnic restaurants or grocery stores a mere stroll away?
Divining this from the address on a home listing can be difficult, especially if you are moving to a new city. Many Web sites are now incorporating ways for users to pinpoint the neighborhoods and properties that might best suit their needs and lifestyles.
Sometimes it's as simple as interactive maps offered on portals such as Trulia and Redfin, where users can spot the nearby businesses and schools, among other destinations.
But other sites, such as ZipRealty and Realtor.com, have tools based on complex formulas to help sort the family havens from the hipster enclaves, or which neighborhoods might be environmentally or pedestrian friendly.
"People are more likely to compromise on the attributes of the home than they are to compromise on the attributes of a community," said Scott Petronis, director of product management for Onboard Informatics, based in New York. [The company also supplies information for the Neighborhoods feature on http:/
The company has developed an algorithm that uses attributes such as he proximity of bars and predominance of people under 30 to determine a neighborhood's hipness factor. It also gauges which are the most family friendly by crunching data on the number of families with children, nearby schools and kid-friendly amenities.
"When we're looking at something like the hipness factor, we'll be looking typically at more of an urban area," Petronis said.
Onboard Informatics plans to add commute calculations, proximity to public transit, day care and search profiles for young singles and single parents.
Ultimately, the accuracy of the results is subject to wide interpretation.
A search on Realtor.com for the hippest neighborhoods in Los Angeles in the lower price range turned up a mixed bag of areas that might have more bars than schools, but also were in heavy industrial areas.
And for many buyers, the most important attribute is the average home price. Neighborhood amenities don't matter if a buyer is priced out of an area.