Imagine if you will....

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.....searching for a place to live instead of searching for a house. Imagine searching for a place in which my family will be comfortable and happy.

Imagine searching for a home based on what I like to do.

Imagine searching for a community!

Back in the old days, like the 1980's, if someone was looking to move, they would not sit down at their desk and start to gather information from the internet (wait, that was obvious), they would not go straight to the local brick and mortar real estate office to get help from a REALTOR, they didn't want to be SOLD.  What they did do is pick up the Sunday paper, look through all the classified listings and circle a few houses that looked appealing.  Then, armed with nothing but an address they would drive around trying to find the house.  In the process, they drove around the neighborhood getting a sense of how it felt.  Was it welcoming, were there people outside, basketball hoops in the driveway, plenty of shopping and restaurants nearby, was it close to a park or golf course, whatever it was that made this particular consumer happy about a community was what they searched for----BEFORE finding the house.  If none of those things were in place the house was scratched from the list and the car rode right on by.

Let's, for a moment, assume that the neighborhood was a perfect fit.  A smile crosses the face of our consumer as the excitement of living within this community starts to boil over.  They see themselves living here, interacting with the neighbors and being part of the community.  Yes, this is it, this is where we want to live.  Now what?  Now, day after day, week after week, they drive around the community looking for the perfect house.   They look for that telling sign in the front yard that a house is for sale.  They may even call the number on the sign that gives them a recording about the details of the home, but they still haven't called a REALTOR.  They are doing the research old style.  When they are reading to see the house that's when they called.

Fast forward to the 2000's and the age of the internet.  Today's consumer wants to sit at their desk and research everything they buy or sell right from the comfort of their home.  They don't want to drive around aimlessly looking for anything.  They want to be targeted and specific about their search.  Consumers are clamoring to do all of their research online and yet today's real estate search mechanisms provide nothing more than a classified ad of the houses available.  We provide them with the ability to see price, bedrooms, baths, square footage, garage etc.  We even provide them with pictures and virtual tours.  Tucked away in some little corner of our website we may even offer them some school and community information (provided by Onboard of course),  but we have done so after they have found the house.  We are currently doing nothing more than helping them find a house that might meet their needs only to force them to actually or virtually drive to the community only to find out that while the house was perfect, the location was not.  People are just not programed to make a decision about where to live based on number of bedrooms.  They search for a place to live first, the house second.

I am not suggesting that anyone can get a "feel" for the community from their desk, but imagine being able to search for homes online that you know are within the communities that fit your needs and desires.  Imagine being able to search for a community that has a commute time of 30 minutes or less to a specific address, is close to golf courses, shopping and restaurants or has schools within walking distance that have a Great Schools ranking of 9 or better and within a specific price range.  Imagine finding the communities that meet those needs  first and then finding home within that community that meets the basic needs of bedrooms, square footage and whether or not it has a pool.   Imagine venturing out to get a "feel" for a community and to see the houses available already armed with information that would indicate it is the type of community in which you would like to live. Imagine searching based on lifestyle.

In today's basic real estate search we expect our customers to already know that the houses within a zip code are within the community they want to live.  We expect that they will have done community research through some means, either driving around or at some other website with community data.  We expect that all they want from a real estate search is information on the house.  What we have provided them with is a 21st century classified ad.

Imagine changing that......

Image Credit: Wikipedia