This topic has been all the rage – in discussions – since RealEstate.com’s announcement around Millennial Search. What this really means: technologists are finally positioned to focus on “budget” rather than “price”. The new feature allows you to search by total monthly budget – a value that includes property taxes, commute costs, utilities, insurance, HOA fees, and more.
The value here is clear: unless your an expert in all these details, and particularly if you’re a first time buyer or moving to a new area, your likely monthly expenses can fall anywhere within a wide range beyond principle and interest. That range is predicated on location first and foremost. But also lifestyle, family size, details around your commute, and more.
So how does RealEstate.com do? I give them a solid C.
The concept is good, but its not original (see below) and its has some significant implementation flaws. The concept for monthly budget (or true cost of ownership) search belongs to TLCengine. Their MLS product, powering Northstar, MLSOK.com and state27homes has been out for a few years now. More importantly, they actually get the data behind the solution and therefore how to personalize lifestyle costs.
Bypassing some boring statistical details, let’s just focus on a couple of obvious elements missing on the RealEstate.com implementation but available on the TLCengine powered sites:
- changing the financing type should change the interest rate
- utility cost estimates depend largely on the number of persons in the home
- commute / transportation costs are a huge part of monthly expenses and can be easily calculated based on location
But don’t take my word for it…check out TLC’s implementations which cover all this and more.
Focusing back on UX, the RealEstate.com interface is also very limited. And here’s where I believe the future of True Lifestyle Cost based search lies, beyond even what TLC currently offers:
Make the lifestyle cost factors searchable.
If I’m looking for a home in my monthly budget, I don’t necessarily want it to be in a specific ZIP code. What I want might look like this:
- in my budget
- in a school district rated > X
- within Y time and $Z commute of my work location
- with non-equity building portions of my monthly nut < N%
And then we get into the character of the town if not the street, the proximity of conveniences, and perhaps specific medical considerations or programs for my kids.
The amazing thing is: THE DATA TO SUPPORT THIS IS HERE TODAY!!! The question is: when will the interface exist that leverages it?