One of my goals for this site was to create a community of buyers and renters that could help each other deal with a system rigged against them. I was especially hoping that people would comment on specific houses for sale or for rent, but now I see that there is a huge impediment to that -- buyers compete against each other, and so do renters.
Consider reviews on Amazon. Writing one of those reviews can't hurt you, because there is an unlimited supply of identical product no matter whether you buy it or not.
But houses are mostly one-off items, and if someone else buys or rents it, you can't. That makes buyers/renters into rivals, and interferes with the formation of a community. Writing a positive review is pointless if you want the property yourself, and negative reviews probably seem less trustworthy too. Maybe someone is just trying to play down some property so that they can get it for themselves.
Should I just forget about that goal? Is there some other community I should try to be building?
Any thoughts appreciated.
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The most honest reviews I'd expect to see would be from renters comments about their former rental. There would be temptation for some to add negativity as retaliation against a perceived injustice from the landlord, neighbors, etc.
Of course that info in its own right could be very useful but I do wonder about liability/slander issues.
If all sellers or landlords are trying to appeal to the same market, they're all more or less going to use the same tactics, which means the buyers/renters will get a decent idea of what every seller is actually peddling. It's not like the old news paper days where you might have to call up a dozen people to try and figure out where a place is, or what condition it is in, or how it's rent is relative to others. We have google maps, we have decent pictures, we have decent descriptions, and we have a good number of properties to look over to compare with. Craigslist and online sites now give us all the tools we need to view properties and compare them in bulk.
In fact, my best rental ever came from someone who put up really crappy pictures (who was a realtor non the less, with her own property!) and when I got there, I just said I would take it. Because I knew if others saw it, they would be all over it. I was 2 miles away when it was posted. Woo! :)
Useful tools for rents/buyers are ones that allow them to compare places pretty quickly. Almost every individually owned property I have ever seen has been leaps and bounds better than a complex. A complex is usually somewhere between a 3-6 on a scale of 1-10. It's pretty easy to toss out the 1's and 2's just by viewing the pictures and/or rent. Rent at the lowest end of the spectrum and cringe worthy photos.
What I've found is that the 3-6 places are all the same in terms of price, but quality is all over the board. Some are 70's places with 10-12 coats of paint, with 90's appliances and the cheapest carpets, to slighly newer, that happened to NEED to be upgraded and you hit them right after the upgrade. If you get a 7-8 apartment complex, you're paying out the wazzoo in rent. If rents range from $1200-$1700, a 7-8 will be $2500-$3000!
Most individual places are in the 6-10 range, depending on who is renting and why. Some buy something for themselves and then get married and rent it out and live in the other persons place, or just upgrade and keep a rental. Whatever the reason, they're much nicer. Even if they're on the "crappy" side of things, they tend to be half way decent because owners simply can't spend the time and energy to find the worst possible appliances, they buy the cheapest at home depot, but huge complexes have more time on their hand and seem to find the worst of everything.
A tool that might help distinguish complex vs individual would be somewhat useful.
A tool that kept some kind of historical rent on a place might be nice too. This would be more like a case shiller update, since it would only get an update every 1-4 years probably.
Tools that pointed out complexes, or removed them from results might be useful, or compared complexes with other complexes?
Rent-o-meter is pretty decent, but it's not perfect. I think something a bit more juicy would be a great tool and with a community, it might be possible to manually add a bit more information.
This information is mostly for the bay area, and the housing here.
I was trying to do all that, but the only source of rental data I could easily get was Craigslist, and then they started suing any other site that was using their rental listings. And they removed all the addresses from their RSS feeds.
There is an interesting essay that claims that the explosive growth of Facebook was not due to Facebook's creating any new community, but simply due to providing a convenient channel of communication for pre-existing offline communities.
There really is no pre-existing offline community of buyers or renters. So I'm slowly building that from scratch.
Pkennedy comment was good. My experience confirms that renting from an individual is a way better experience in terms of quality and what you get for your rent. Choosing an apt complex is just lazy. Spend a little more time and find a place to rent with a little character. Maybe you will make a friend in passing who can help your dreams of home ownership come true. It's an insider's game these days. Best to be on the inside
Well you could still pull data from CL, but go for a less intrusive approach. Instead of just scrapping everything, just pull interesting feeds. You don't need every last bit of data, and you don't need to have every place ever. A decent historical collection of data would be interesting.
FB grew big because they were the first ones that jumped into peoples gmail accounts, and other accounts and yanked ALL those names and made it dead simple to add people, and super easy to by mistake spam every person you had ever said hi to in passing.
I would still pull in some CL data and see what you can do. Do it for just the bay area, pull in just some ads, ones that you want the address for. When you find something that looks interesting, maybe go fetch the whole article from craigslist. Grab the photos too. If you collect up 1/20th of the addresses, you might still be able to do something interesting with the information.
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