Investigate Neighborhoods Online With Real Estate Gossip Sites

You find a home you love, and the asking price makes it practically a steal. But you wonder: how do you know it wasn’t built on top of a “relocated” cemetery? Or what if it’s only a few blocks away from the city’s longest-running crackfest? Thanks to several websites and blogs, new home shoppers can now collect “real world” data about prospective neighborhoods and real estate from actual residents, other buyers, and anonymous brokers out to sabotage the competition.

The sites let you find out the sorts of things you’d normally know only after living there for six months or so:

The executive relocating to Rochester, says he couldn’t understand why houses fronting Lake Ontario weren’t selling at a premium. Every real estate agent he saw said the prices simply reflected the city’s low property values. But from web research, he got the real skinny: Winds off the lake made that area almost unbearably cold for much of the year. “At least I get an honest opinion from a real person” online, he says.

Brokers complain that the data is unreliable at best, and they’re right. But then, they’re brokers, so that’s like a hooker complaining that the other women in the bar are slutty.

(To be fair to brokers, laws prevent them from talking about all sorts of details. And to be fair to hookers, we think prostitution should be legal. And to be fair to slutty women, we thing sexual double standards are repellent.)

“The Dirt on the Neighbors” [SmartMoney]

Neighborhood news sites
Real estate information
      Brownstoner (Brooklyn)
      Curbed (Manhattan, LA, SF)
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Try this one for the Rogers Park neighborhood on the Far North Side of Chicago.

    The ‘Broken Heart’ of Rogers Park

  2. Walrii says:

    Similar to investigating places you might buy is investigating places you might rent. It’s a shameless plug in a way, because this website was built by people who went to my gradudate college but hopefully some of you find it useful.


  3. MercuryPDX says:

    Don’t forget this one from Lifehacker.

    Some of the entries are pure comedy gold.

  4. TechnoDestructo says:

    I don’t see anything on that Zillow site like what the article is talking about.

    Anyhow, I read a lot of discussion before I ATTEMPTED to move to Philadelphia. It didn’t help.

    When you have people who are mostly used to things like not going outside at night, dead economies, trash strewn across the whole city, or pretending most of the area around them doesn’t exist, well, they tend not to mention it. The idea that someone might object to it doesn’t enter the mind of someone who has lived with it their whole life.

  5. MercuryPDX says:

    @TechnoDestructo: Zillow is more about checking up on real estate values than neighborhood gossip. The only potentially gossipy features would be “Q&A” and “Cool Homes”.

    More gossipy fun: []

  6. zolielo says:

    Stakeouts, shakes downs, game theory, and some time…

  7. weave says:

    I don’t understand why any homeowner would post to these gossip sites. Why discourage potential buyers from coming to your neighborhood? That drives down demand and hence drives down property values — including your own.

  8. jgkelley says:

    Also check [] forums. The kind of discussions going on can definitely tell you about the city.

  9. @weave: “I don’t understand why any homeowner would post to these gossip sites.”

    For one thing, it draws public official attention and demands the problems be addressed, if only for the sake of PR.

    My city has some neighborhoods with SERIOUS problems and the strategy is to publicize them like crazy. You only cover up and don’t talk about it when you’re in a fairly GOOD neighborhood where the issue is isolated.

    Also some people are just like, “I never would have bought here, I’m bitter, I want everyone else to save their money!”

  10. swalve says:

    Brokers are COMPELLED by law to relate certain facts. They don’t want to know certain things because then they’d have to tell potential buyers.

  11. superflippy says:

    I second the City Data forums. That’s how I found out about the different neighborhoods in the small town I just moved to.

  12. JayXJ says:

    Also when house hunting (either to rent or to buy) talk to the neighboors. Actaully speak with people face to face. It is amazing what you can learn. If it’s the sort or area where you don’t want to do that, do you REALLY want to live there?

  13. PeteFlint says:

    Hi, this is Pete from
    Thanks for the mention here.
    The opening up of real estate information on the local level is a huge and exciting trend that will ultimately help all homeowners. It is an industry that historically has had very little transparency.
    As the comments point out, there are lots of issues with getting the right incentives for participants and also legal restrictions for participation from agents and brokers. Ultimately I think some of these sites will work it out – as we’ve seen in other industries to great very useful apps.

    At Trulia, we chose the Q and A format, as we’ve found that it is the best way to generate quality responses and it seems to be working pretty well so far.

    Some interesting posts on this topic:



  14. ancientsociety says:

    [] is pretty good.

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: Interesting blog, especially since I live just south of Rogers Park.

  15. Sonnymooks says:


    Not in NY anymore.

    In one of the stupidest moves ever, there are all sorts of crap I am no longer allowed to disclose.

    Is stupid and dumb, but they have placed limits on certain information that I can’t tell prospective renters, or buyers.

  16. infinitysnake says:

    I don’t like Zillow- in fact, I’m more than a little peeved that they posted close-ups of my house, including the inside of my backyard(I have an eight foot fence?!)I’m thinking a little privacy in my own hot tub would be nice!

  17. Rusted says:

    Zillow can’t be that great. It says two single family for my street. Just townhouses here.

  18. drewmeyers says:

    Hey, it’s Drew from Zillow.
    If you’d like to either e-mail me (drewm at zillow) or post the addresses of the homes you are inquiring about, I can look into the issue.

    Please do note the aerial imagery on Zillow is not live imagery – it’s taken periodically via an airplane flying overhead.

    Regarding neighborhood blogs, there is quite an extensive list of local real estate blogs listed on the zillow wiki for those of you who would like to browse through a couple – []

  19. zolielo says:

    Dude shills, seemingly.