Whilst Trade Me Property may still be grappling with issues of agent loyalty and patronage, the technical team appear to be focused on what is important - adding richer and more relevant information to the site.
School zones are a much quoted detail in many property listings as agents recognise the importance (and value) of the 'in-zone' location of properties. Whilst no objective data is available on the added value of an 'in-zone' location for NZ property or any consumer research, I did find some insight from overseas. In the UK a recent report entitled "The Good School Guide" produced in association with the Estate Agency Savills has found that parents are prepared to pay a premium of almost 22% to buy a home close to some of the best state secondary schools in the country.
In the US a recent homebuyer survey from the National Association of Realtors. The survey examined factors influencing neighbourhood choice amongst the various generations. For those aged 34 to 48 years the quality of the school district was the third most important criteria after overall quality of the neighbourhood and the convenience to work.
So with this endorsement of the value of such information it is therefore surprising that it has taken over 5 years for either of the leading real estate websites to incorporate school zone data into the mix. Credit should be given at this time to Barfoot & Thompson who incorporated School Zones into their excellent iPad app last year.
The Ministry of Education has provided an open data platform of school zones for years and provides an interactive map to help the public identify the zones of all schools (those that define a catchment area).
Trade Me has just this week released an upgrade to their website that delivers an excellent integration of not only the the school zone data but all data on schools within the geographical area of the property for sale.
The functionality is within the map section of the site and delivers not just the details of which schools are in zone but also key facts about those schools - size and decile ranking as well as distance from the property. The selection of schools covers Primary, Intermediate and Secondary both state and private schools.
Whilst I think this is a valuable enhancement of functionality to go alongside the other recent enhancement of boundary view I think the user experience could have been better enhanced along these lines.
- The School information could have been incorporated into the primary facts about the property rather then making them a opt-in option of the map - simply listing the 'in-zone' schools would be a real pus and putting that up front.
- The schools by type could be ranked by distance from the property in descending order. Also using a colour scheme to differentiate between state schools (showing in/out of zone) separate from private schools.
- The addition of this valuable data to their iOS apps - especially given the level of usage of the mobile app environment when searching for property and the map-centric aspect of search.
- Probably the greatest missing component given the data integration is "search by school zone" within the search function so instead of searching for 5 bedroom homes under $800k in Onehunga and then having to look at each one to see which are in-zone for Royal Oak Intermediate you could add this requirement into the search options.
Overall though a great step forward and so good to see a step up in technology innovation from Trade Me Property.