Neighborhood Advice on Facebook
Today, Zillow has launched Neighborhood Advice, a social home-shopping experience that the company says helps buyers and renters find the right neighborhood to live in by enabling them to easily tap their Facebook friends for personal advice while searching homes on Zillow.
While shopping on Zillow, users are prompted to activate Facebook Connect which generates a map of where other Zillow users they are “friends” with on Facebook have checked in which can be narrowed down to state, city and then neighborhood.
The idea is to tap friends and family for advice online just as one would do offline; “hey mom, is Hyde Park still a nice place to live?” or “hey Sarah, I see you still live in Crystal Falls, has it changed since I last visited?”
For example, if a user is searching for homes in the San Francisco neighborhood of Noe Valley, Neighborhood Advice will identify friends who have shared that they live in Noe Valley, or who frequently “check-in” to places in Noe Valley. The home shopper can then send these friends a private direct message on Facebook to ask questions about the neighborhood.
“When people are looking to rent or buy a new home, they always ask friends, family and co-workers questions about different neighborhoods. Neighborhood Advice takes this further and deeper by allowing shoppers to quickly and easily tap into their broader online social network as they shop for homes on Zillow,” said Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow. “Integrating social media tools and friend networks into the core Zillow home-shopping experience is yet another way we are giving our users access to previously hard-to-find, yet sought-after, information.”
Advantages and disadvantages
Currently, we see consumers rushing to the web to validate their home purchasing decisions, asking general questions to whomever is tuned in, but this formalizes that process. How this integrates with Realtors’ checking in and flooding the system versus consumers, we are unsure, and we are also unsure if this is yet another way to minimize the value placed on a Realtor’s expert advice, as we all know that one “eww, that neighborhood sucks” comment, (even from a friend who hasn’t been to the area in five years) can derail an entire shopping experience. The other problem is convincing consumers to check in to yet another place in addition to their already checking in to Foursquare, Twitter, Path and the like.
Regardless, the idea is solid and simply takes a natural process of asking a network for advice and narrows it to willing participants, and while Zillow doesn’t proclaim it replaces Realtor advice or offline advice, it should be reiterated. We are in the era of co-brokering via Google as consumers verify all information not only factually but socially, so the timing of Neighborhood Advice is appropriate.