When most of us want to make a major new purchase, be it a piece of technology, a new piece of furniture or even a new home, we will often turn to the internet to help us find the lowest price and the best deal for us. While there are still brick and mortar retailers on the high street, most of us look online first when we are investigating potential new real estate properties.
Real estate dealings used to be done entirely analog without any computers or technology involved, usually following a face-to-face meeting with a real estate agent. However, the real estate industry has really gone all-in on their online offerings and the vast majority of their business is now conducted through the internet.
The internet enables real estate businesses to reach as wide an audience as possible. According to some estimates, as much as 40% of the inquiries that estate agents receive about properties are due to advertisements seen online. It is also easy, and relatively cheap, to post listings on multiple different websites and platforms as a way of maximizing exposure.
From the perspective of consumers, the online arena is also a beneficial one because it is easy to search. It is much easier to find a house that matches your specifications when you look online than it is finding one by going from agents to agents, hoping they have something suitable.
Price Comparison Websites
Once you know the kind of property that you want to buy, there are plenty of online price comparison websites that you can use to find the best deal available. But have you ever wondered how it is that these comparison websites know the prices and other details that they provide users with? Surely, it would be far too much data to store in a single database?
Even if a price comparison website could store all of the data that it uses in a single database, it would need to constantly update it with new information every time something changed. This isn’t very practical either.
Price comparison websites use a technique known as scraping to find the data that they need. To put simply, a scraper is an automated script that can be used to navigate the internet and interface with websites automatically. Scraping is used in a wide range of different contexts where data is needed from online sources.
In the case of real estate listings, web scraping can be used to pull information about a property straight from the estate agents’ website. This includes everything from the size and location of the property, to any local amenities, the monthly rental price, parking availability, and anything else that you can think of. Web scraping bots will go to websites and gather all of this data, before sorting it and exporting it in a format that can be read by a human or by another computer program.
Real Estate Scraping
Web scraping isn’t just used by price comparison websites to find the best deals for customers. It is also used by savvy businesses, and even individual people, who invest in the property market professionally. For these people, scrapers are a useful tool for finding the best deals that are available and then automatically purchasing them.
For example, an investor could use a web scraping tool to not only find the value of individual properties but to also find the value of surrounding properties to compare it to. By doing this, investors can automatically track the relative value of any properties in particular areas and can even set their tool to automatically make a purchase or express an interest to the realtor selling the place.
The price of a house is only one data point that prospective buyers will want to consider. If the buyer is looking for a place to rent rather than buy, they will likely be more interested in the current rental cost than the current value of the property. However, if they plan on potentially buying the property after renting it, this could then become relevant.
Similarly, many people are looking to buy properties with the intention of renting them out to other people. Using a web scraper enables buyers to find out which properties will earn them the biggest returns for their investments. It would take a fair amount of time for a person to gather and analyze all of the relevant data, but a computer is able to do it with ease.
Another very important metric for any property investor is the vacancy rates. If you are going to invest the money necessary to buy a property and to bring it up to scratch in terms of renovations and refits, you will want to know that you’re going to get a return. It would be terrible to go through all of that only for the property to remain vacant. A scraping bot can factor in the vacancy rates in the local area when alerting the user to potential leads.
While scraping has the potential to help consumers, the real estate industry is now facing the same problems as the live music and sneaker industries – bots are faster than people. As soon as an unmissable deal hits the market, automated tools will pick it up first and either alert their owners or automatically register their interest.
Because of the ever-increasing number of automated tools scouring the internet for the best deals around, human users are now at a real disadvantage. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that you’ll be able to secure the best property deals available unless you also use a bot.