A Pennsylvania tech company’s new service aims to provide a human element to the types of data homebuyers use to find their next home. Niche, which already has sites that offer rankings for colleges and kindergarten-through-grade 12 schools, recently launched the beta version of a site that offers data and rankings for metro areas and neighborhoods in America.
The site, Niche Local, claims to have already covered 80 metro areas, 55,465 cities, towns, and townships, 3,221 counties and 12,287 neighborhoods in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico.
“Right now, the most unique and important feature, and that we have seen be really valuable to people in Real Estate ... is the comparison tool, which allows people to compare places with each other, and compare neighborhoods,” Niche spokeswoman Erin Kelly said. “It provides context for (home buyers).”
Niche got its start in 2002 (when it was known as College Prowler) and grew to include data, rankings and reviews of 250,000 schools. It then expanded to include a similar service for primary schools nationwide. Kelly said this is when the company realized how important such rankings played into the success of sites like Zillow and Trulia, where people went to search for their next homes.
Where people live impacts quality of life, income, taxes, health, and opportunities for families, and location was at the heart of all such decisions. To get the initial data for the local product, the company turned not only to the census, but the FBI Uniformed Crime Report and other sources.
“Right now (Niche Local) consists of pure aggregated data that we’ve compiled from a variety of sources,” Kelly said. “But the goal is that we will incorporate reviews and rankings.”
Kelly said the challenges of compiling such data were great, because much of the way census data is stored in America creates data sets that most people cannot comprehend, such as the occurrences where various zip codes are grouped together even though no town exists. But now that the hard part of the job has been completed, Niche will be ready to add new elements that will make it easier for home seekers to make a decision.
The “local” website will work with the K-12 and college site, and home buyers will be able to see how a neighborhood compares with schools in the neighborhood.
“They are all designed to work together,” Kelly said.
The larger goal for the company is to incorporate human-element neighborhood details, such as the types of restaurant scene, commute times to work, and more. The company just launched a survey for users, where they can fill in more information about their neighborhoods. The survey allows users to share opinions, reviews and insights. Because it’s open to everyone, Real Estate agents and brokers have the opportunity to share their knowledgeable experience about the areas in which they live and work.
“Once we layer in reviews, it will be a much more personalized experience.”