Rankdesk begun life with a simple observation: The level of online property data on estate agents’ websites in mature residential markets is so developed that third party companies (like Rankdesk) can provide advanced property assessments remotely.
We knew that there were a number of Automatic Valuation Systems in the UK, the US and Australia, which relied on this type of information but which only used about 20% of the data available. So how do you make use of the remaining 80% of rich property data (photos, floor plans, location maps, environmental performance certificates, video tours and the written property descriptions provided by estate agents)? We looked at the growing sector of so-called HITs – Human Intelligence Tasks – revolutionised by Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. HITs are individual tasks that are nearly impossible for computers to perform efficiently (reading a floor plan, comparing the quality of two different properties etc.) but which can be performed remotely by humans on a computer.
Before packing our suitcases to travel to the World’s leading HITs hubs, we knew that property (which is heavily reliant on Local Knowledge) could only be performed locally. In 2008, we set up our first ranking desk in Baker Street in London and begun a 2 year development process on how the HIT model could be applied to residential property.
The colourful chart below shows our ranking desk in action.
There are 3 full time members of Rankdesk and 3 part time members. Our Head of Research (that’s Priya) collects macro level statistics of the central London property market (these include, capital appreciation rates, rental price growths, vacancy rates and even depreciation rates due to low leases). Priya is also responsible for interviewing property buyers to determine the importance of different property parameters (quality, net yield, accessibility) & their weight of importance when making purchase decisions. All of Priya’s research is embodied in our very own ranking algorithm that drives our online platform. Our 3 part time analysts now have the power of a web based property ranking application on which to carry out their analysis. Each analyst has two computer screens on their ranking desk (the left screen displays the property particulars as they appear on the estate agents’ website. The right screen displays our web application). Each analyst answers around 60 questions on the quality and investment performance of each property. Before the properties are published on our Wednesday rankings, our Head Analyst (who is normall busy walking around central London collecting neighbourhood intelligence) checks through all the answers and assigns rental values based on comparable properties on the same street.
Of course, there are limits to the HITs model. Since we don’t visit the actual asset, we will never be able to determine how noisy your future neighbours will be! We all rely on the expert ‘on-site’ knowledge of estate agents and surveyors, to help us with this very tangible parameters.
There is an audio version of this presentation!