Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

Real Estate… databases vs. stories

Posted on Tuesday, August 7, 2007 by 3 comments

Location, location, location… right?  Real estate keeps coming up recently.  Front Porch Forum has been hearing from realtors lately… interested in what neighborhoods are doing with their FPF forums.  So I found these postings from the blogosphere interesting…

First, from Greg Swann’s real estate blog

I’m quoting from David Gibbons from He wrote these remarks in a comment… How can web-based vendors build databases of neighborhood expertise?

What you are seeing in the neighborhood space is the lack of any predefined neighborhood database. It’s never been done before and so, while there’s a great place to start when building a taxonomy of regions at any other level, neighborhoods are tough to build. The 6,500 neighborhoods currently defined on Zillow were done by hand. We’ve talked this through with – they took the same approach. The solution is to allow homeowners to collaboratively describe their neighborhoods and we’ll iterate towards that but even homeowners seldom agree on neighborhood designations and boundaries. It’s an interesting problem to solve.

Greg goes on to say…

On-line neighborhood databases are the virtual sex of real estate. This, from Seth Godin’s All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World, is how you get neighborhood information:

Arthur Riolo is a world-class storyteller. Arthur sells real estate in my little town north of New York City. He sells a lot of real estate — more than all his competitors combined. That’s because Arthur doesn’t sell anything. Anyone can tell you the specs of a house or talk to you about the taxes. But he doesn’t. Instead, Arthur does something very different. He takes you and your spouse for a drive. You drive up and down the hills of a neighborhood as he points out house after house (houses that aren’t for sale). He tells you who lives in that house and what they do and how they found the house and the name of their dog and what their kids are up to and how much they paid. He tells you a story about the different issues in town, the long-simmering rivalries between neighborhoods and the evolution and imminent demise of the Mother’s Club. Then, and only then, does Arthur show you a house.

It might be because of Arthur’s antique pickup truck or the fact that everyone in town knows him or the obvious pleasure he gets from the community, but sooner or later, you’ll buy a house from Arthur. And not just because it’s a good house. Because it’s a good story.

Forget the silly, way-too-large neighborhood definitions, forget the duplication of records, the omissions, the errors. This is what a database can never do.

In less than a year, Front Porch Forum is brimming with neighborhood stories churned up by 10,000+ messages among nearby neighbors.

And Peter K. at the Local Onliner has several recent real estate postings about large national efforts, including… update… “[CEO] Barton noted that Zillow now has 250,000 listings, and that 50,000 agents have created custom profiles. ‘350,000 Realtors come to the site every month.'”

CraigsList update… “is now getting 8 billion page views a month from 450 cities in 50 countries. He also noted that the service is up to 23 staffers, and will be adding a couple of programmers.”

Posted in: Front Porch Forum, Local Online, Real Estate


  1. Andy Vota says:

    Interesting – I just attended the Inman Real Estate Connect conference and there were several panelists from sites focused on the neighborhood level –,, and

    What is your opinion of the connection between those searching for real estate or looking to learn about a neighborhood, and the FPF?

  2. Michael says:

    Good question Andy. Sounds like a good conference. I’ve mentioned each of those sites on this blog in the past, but am not very familiar with any of them… need to take another look.

    Members of Front Porch Forum often cite its authenticity as setting it apart from other services… so whatever the future holds will need to build from there.

    Julia Lerman made a similar point about FPF yesterday.

  3. The story is indeed good considering that you could learn something from it. I think I wild do it as another way of promoting or when selling something. It is another approached of marketing which is indeed much more interesting rather than showing the place itself. Sometimes people like to buy houses or properties depending on what neighbors they may have .

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