HotPads.com , a real estate search site, on Monday announced a new feature called HotSpots, a tool that visualizes housing options by relative price. The tool is dynamic, meaning that when you zoom a map in or out, it recalibrates what prices equal "hot" (expensive, in red) or "cool" (cheaper, in blue). HotSpots joins a few other recently added tools to HotPads, including a lasso that helps you narrow your search to the precise areas you're interested in.
HotPads, a five-year-old DC-based startup, is all map-oriented, in contrast to the infamously texty Craigslist. The idea behind HotPads was to "make it visual," HotPads's Paul Gleger tells Fast Company. "Craigslist is just a community bulletin board." Its traffic has been growing steadily--a 260% increase last year, up to 4 million visitors, 2.5 million uniques monthly.
HotPads sources their listings through a variety of methods. Individuals can add postings for free. (Currently, most of HotPads's revenue is from advertising.) Brokers also add listings; HotPads has feeds with about 400 partners. HotPads doesn't source any of their data through Craigslist, though. "We explored some options there," says Gleger with a laugh, but "they're not the easiest company to work with."
But a little healthy competition, as we know, forces companies to innovate. Hence the new HotSpots feature, where individual listings are color-coded by price. "It paints an interesting picture of cities," says Gleger, walking me through a New York example. "So in the Lower East Side you have prices that are lower than maybe on the Upper West Side. But if you zoom out, the price points recalibrate, and suddenly you see that property owners around Manhattan are paying less than those in Manhattan." Clear enough to a local, perhaps, but "for someone out of state, who has never been there, it gives a wealth of information."
And for people who are in-state, and already have a good idea of what they want, HotPads has a few other new tools, added within the past few weeks. The lasso tool helps you micro-target the precise area you're interested in, weeding out listings from the wrong side of the train tracks--or, indeed, listings that simply happen to be outside the weirdly gerrymandered region between that Dunkin Donuts, that bus station, that cafe, that other cafe, that park, and that school, all of which bound the neighborhood of your dreams. "You can literally draw the area you're interested in, then click 'save search,' and you can opt-in to be notified when properties are available in the area," explains Gleger.
One more recent addition: HotPads also gives you information about neighborhoods served by a local school. Click on a public school that interests you, and you'll see a shaded-in region of the zone that sends students there. With a few clicks, you can also have HotPads show you all the properties on the market in that region--a great help if you're letting school choice determine your housing search.
Craig Newmark, of Craigslist fame, are you listening? Probably not; the man is famous for stubbornly flouting and conventions of design. Which is probably all the better for HotPads.
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