Location matters in real estate, and insiders know which neighborhoods are hot. But outsiders contemplating a move may not have a clue. Now they do, via a new "heat map" feature on several real estate websites.
Popularity is measured by the number of times a neighborhood is searched for listings at www.trulia.com, which presents its findings in a color-coded map ranging from red (hot) to green (cool). The Hollywood Hills topped the Trulia list, followed by Los Feliz and Silver Lake out of 60 areas in greater Los Angeles, for the week ending Nov. 8.
Of course, to make that information more relevant to a buyer, the site would need to reveal the demographics of those searching. Would the rankings change, for example, if the majority of house hunters were baby boomers intent on downsizing, young professionals hunting for their first home, or growing families trading up? Does it make a difference that the Internet typically attracts a greater share of younger eyeballs than older? You don't know who is voting.
At www.zillow.com, the heat map visually charts the estimated price. Malibu, Santa Monica, most of Beverly Hills and the coastal areas from Manhattan Beach through Rancho Palos Verdes blaze a fiery red, indicating that the price per square foot ranges between $1,000 and $1,999.
Yellow, green and a smattering of orange color most of the San Fernando Valley, marking those neighborhoods as a good choice for buyers who want to pay about $350 to $600 per square foot. The low end likely reflects the inclusion of condos, whereas the high end is not even close to the asking price in some parts of Sherman Oaks and other exclusive areas. Zillow executives say their free "zestimates" are merely a starting point for consumer research.
Even communities once considered bargains for working-class families, such as Compton and South Gate, glow green with hints of yellow, illustrating a range of $350 per square foot to $450, which would translate to a 1,200-square-foot house selling for between $420,000 and $540,000. The lowest housing prices in Southern California -- found in sections of Corona in Riverside County -- are shaded royal blue. To find a city map that is almost completely a bargain shade of blue, check out Cleveland.
Renters can get similar information from the heat maps at www.hotpads.com. Based on census data, color-coded illustrations show the range of per capita income, household income, median age, percentage of renters and median rent throughout Los Angeles and other cities.