Apartment search site RentLingo has added a couple of extremely useful heat maps to its toolbox that allow prospective renters to zero in on suitable neighborhoods based on the area's charm and noise pollution levels.
RentLingo created the heatmaps as a direct response to feedback from the site's users, who requested more information about noise levels around the properties listed on the site, given the impact it can have on one's lifestyle. As a result, RentLingo ended up creating both the “Noise Index”, which measures noise pollution, and the “Charm Index”, based on how charming various neighborhoods are.
Adam Busch, head of community outreach at RentLingo, said in an email interview that the noise index was created to provide greater transparency on noise levels in different areas.
“We found that noise complaints were a consistent gripe among renters, particularly concerning construction, trains, and fire stations,” Busch said. “These factors aren't often considered by renters when looking for a new place to live, yet can end up being a major issue of disturbance. We chose to address this issue using data on traffic, public transit, the locations of construction sites, and the locations of noisy businesses such as bars, restaurants and clubs, and more.”
Creating the charm index was trickier though, because different people have differing opinions on what they consider to be “charming” in a neighborhood. Busch explained that RentLingo hit upon the idea after seeing several Redfin studies that show location is a primary driver of millenial's home searches – they specifically like to live in highly “walkable” areas, but such areas can be difficult to locate, especially for someone new to an area.
Busch and his colleagues sat down to brainstorm the best ways to define a “charming” neighborhood, and came up with four essential characteristics: Flourishing local businesses; safety/low crime levels; community institutions such as museums, theaters, universities, townhalls and civic centers; and an active residence best displayed by parks, gyms, walkways and yoga studios.
In addition, Busch and his team defined the characteristics of areas that lack charm, including: Areas with a high concentration of franchise/corporate businesses, restaurants and retailers; areas with higher crime rates; and areas with a proliference of pawn shops, strip clubs and credit loan stores.
“We haven't seen anything have such a strong impact on our users as the Charm Index, not even the reviews or the noise index, both of which we believe add lots of value as well,” Busch explained. “Our partners have reported a higher lead to lease conversion rate as a result of these features because our users are more focused in their search.“