Hometopia - everything home buyers & sellers need online
The new property website born of the excellent book "Where to Live in Auckland" was launched last week and certainly provides a rich online library of comment, articles, insight and data to help people better appreciate the Auckland market right down to the local level. In my view it certainly lives up to the proposition as "everything home buyers and sellers need".
The site is certainly comprehensive, I would estimate over 230 individual pages, however it can feel somewhat heavy to use at times with a lot of text. There are though some beautiful components of the site!
This would be my favourite section. A very subjective grouping of Auckland suburbs into somewhat 'tongue in cheek' descriptors such as Greenies - Titirangi / Grey Lynn / Swanson / West Coast Beaches / Hauraki Gulf Islands / Kingsland, or Culture Vultures - Auckland City / Parnell / Takapuna / Ponsonby / Howick / Titirangi. Many suburbs cross over between different categories to demonstrate the eclectic nature of Auckland.
This feature reminded me of an excellent feature from the Australian suburb selection website CityHobo which defines suburbs by shoe brands - the suburb defined by Converse as opposed to Jimmy Choo!
This feature provides a whole new slant on property searching online, something wholly missing from all other property portals, the ability to search by lifestyle and amenities, style and schools.
It's very cool and provides some great insight into opening up new ideas on where to live in Auckland. So if you place a greater importance on excellent schools, than say commute to the CBD then you can apply this to your suburb selection criteria before you invest time in reviewing property for sale. When using this section don't forget to tick the 'Advanced Search' button - this allows you to not only select a region or environment but you can also specify how important that is, thereby allowing yourself to be open to explore new ares of Auckland.
As with most of the site the core driver of the user is to individual suburb pages which are the distillation of the original book, across the 50+ suburbs in Auckland. These pages provide a good personal evaluation of the character and characteristics of the suburb. The site is very clearly and non-apologetically commercially focussed to encourage you to buy the complete book (Where to live in Auckland $44.95 / The Streetwise Buyer $29.95) or at least a suburb profile $5 each.
The site will certainly appeal to all property buyers (and renters) across Auckland, however its greatest appeal I think will be to people new to Auckland and keen to better understand the region and the make up of the suburbs whether they come from around the country or from overseas.
No review of the site would be complete without some critique after all I would be the first to concede that we can always improve upon something and learn from others, so here are a couple of pointers to make the site even better!
- Property listing integration - Within each suburb page there is a link to view homes for sale in that suburb, this takes you off to the listing page on Trade Me for that suburb. A functional link, however these days integration and mashing of data can provide a richer user experience. Using the open read API from Trade Me would allow this site to showcase all the relevant properties on Trade Me in that suburb on this site, all dynamically integrated thereby adding to the appeal and relevance of the site.
- The site hosts a page for each suburb providing a sense of the character as well as a separate page for the same suburb providing property price trends (How's my suburb performing?) . These pages provide no cross links and yet are so critically interlinked for someone using the site for fact finding on purchasing a property. Some simple cross links would help
- As this is a site helping you to answer the question of where to live in Auckland, there is a conspicuous lack of any dynamic maps to help you better contextualise the region or to provide a searching by map functionality. Also a simple search box to find a suburb again is conspicuously missing.
- The suburb page that provides the key numbers on property prices per suburb needs to detail the source and date of the data. Property data is critically important but only when context is provided, such data is meaningless when it is out of date.
Overall I think Stephen Hart and the team at Barbican Publishing have done a great job to provide property buyers and sellers with yet more valuable information and services helping them become smarter.