Who lives around the corner?
House hunting on the Internet? Now, it's easy to check out the neighbors and the neighborhood, too.
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"If you're a golfer, you know you never want to buy a house 200 yards down on the right side of the fairway," Mr. Wyman says. "You know you're in a ball alley."
Armed with the URLs of real-estate websites, he explored homes for sale. And with the help of satellite photos on the Internet, he perused golf courses from above. It didn't take long for him to find the perfect home.
The Internet has long been a handy tool for house hunters. But it has become even more useful over the past couple years as sites have popped up to allow people to explore neighborhoods from the sky, read environmental reports, and even learn where not to live. "I love that you can do stuff like this," says Wyman, who has since moved to South Carolina, again with the Internet's help. "It's tremendous."
Millions of Americans share his enthusiasm. Zillow.com, a real-estate site that's barely two years old, says users have looked up individual price estimates for 37 million homes in the United States. An estimated 4.5 million visitors dropped by another leading site, Realtor.com, in December, according to comScore Media Metrix. And several hundred thousand people have posted comments to Rotten Neighbor (www.rottenneighbor.com), a site devoted to exposing ... well, the site's name says it all.
Brant Walker, a 20-something entrepreneur from San Diego, created the site after he moved into a new apartment and noticed an awful smell coming from next door. He complained to the landlord and the neighbors, but had no success getting anyone to take action.
"I thought, 'What if there was a website or service out there that allowed potential home buyers and renters to find out about bad neighbors before they moved? Maybe we could have avoided living in this apartment,' " he says.
And so Rotten Neighbor was born, allowing residents across the world to post anonymous comments about barking dogs, loud parties, and scurrilous teenagers.
"Always cursing at her cats ... and fights with her husband," complains a New York City post. "This dude ... needs to fix this home it is horrible," says a punctuation-challenged resident in Cleveland.