Officials in Boston are using big data techniques to help identify misleading apartment listings, as well as residences that might be unsafe or not follow regulations.
The city started to scan local apartment advertisements on sites such as Craigslist with algorithms that compare listings to city records in order to check their accuracy. They also assign each item a risk score that tells officials when one is likely to be violating rules by identifying certain telltale keywords.
If an ad exaggerates the number of bedrooms, for example, it might be flagged. If it says the basement could be used for bedrooms, it might receive a high-risk score as spaces such as basements often need permits or renovations before they can be advertised as bedrooms.
The city’s Inspectional Services Department is then notified of any flagged items and investigates them further.
If the listing is found to be problematic, Boston’s Division of Professional Licensure takes over, which has the power to discipline brokers.
The goal, the city says, is not to dish out punishment, but to educate brokers and ensure tenants have safe, clean places to live that meet their expectations based on what they saw advertised.
Big Data for Realtors
Government officials aren’t the only ones using big data to their advantage. The massive amount of data that is now available can also be useful for real estate agents and other housing professionals.
Data can help real estate agents identify who is likely to be looking for somewhere new to live by analyzing trends for different demographics such as age, marital status, occupation, location of residence, and any combination of those characteristics.
Agents can then use that information to decide how to advertise, whether they use direct mail, online and social media ads, or some other means of promotion.
Data can also be used to analyze how certain properties are performing, how well marketing plans are working and what kinds of people are most likely to rent from you.
Big Data for Tenants
Big data may benefit tenants and apartment seekers, too.
The fact that government agencies are able to keep closer tabs on real estate agents and landlords by using big data could mean tenants have a safer, smoother apartment-seeking experience. They may be less likely to run into misleading advertisements and end up in unsafe apartments if big data monitoring continues to succeed.
Another exciting possibility for tenants, and property owners as is using big data to improve energy efficiency. Internet of Things (IoT) technology can track energy usage patterns and automatically adjust things like a room’s temperature and the energy appliances use based on those patterns. This has the potential to save property owners and tenants money on their energy bills.
Looking for a rental unit or house to rent can be a complicated process. Numerous apps and websites are now gathering data on apartments and houses for rent and presenting it to customers in a way that is easier to navigate and understand. This has the potential to make apartment shopping easier, safer and more reliable.
The growing amount of data that’s becoming available is transforming virtually every industry, including the housing and rental markets. Governments, property owners, real estate agents and tenants may all see some benefits from this transformation.
Boston hopes their initiative will encourage brokers to provide more clarity and accuracy in their apartment listings, which should clearly inform you of things like tenant selection guidelines, features of the unit and rules of the rental agreement.