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April 1, 2021

As you may have read, the social media platform NextDoor rolled out its Rate Your Neighbor feature to 10 major U.S. markets last year, instantly becoming the site’s most-used feature in all cities in which it was beta-tested. Within the feature, residents can give each other one to five stars in categories like Neatness, Lawn Maintenance, Noise Level, and Helpfulness. Neighbors with the highest ratings earn special badges informing other users of their elite status. Neighborhoods with high averages were suddenly more popular … which brings in Zillow.

Seeing the home values actually rise in a highly rated neighborhood, Zillow saw opportunity in Rate Your Neighbor’s overwhelming popularity and has now officially partnered with NextDoor. Zillow has fine-tuned the rating system for use on its own site, adding categories that matter most to homebuyers and allowing anyone who visits Zillow to see the ratings of neighbors in surrounding homes that are currently on the market. “I’ve become obsessed with checking the rating system on Zillow now,” Madison Durak admits. “I don’t even think of making an appointment to view a home anymore if the neighbors rate less than a four out of five. It’s a total game-changer for home buying.”

Madison has been on the quest for a three-bedroom house with an open floor plan and a big backyard for her dog, but she’s not willing to make an offer without knowing who will be found next door. “I’ve gotta have awesome neighbors,” Madison says. “I grew up on a street full of families with parents who really knew each other and did life together. And I want to have that experience now as an adult.” She admits she’s “basically addicted to” the Rate Your Neighbor tool, and by the looks of things, this is headed to be a major disruptive force in real estate … and the way neighbors interact.

When this person finds out who left the cheese on their car, that neighbor is getting a really, really bad rating. Image: @bestofnextdoor

Zillow’s new ratings categories help homebuyers like Madison know exactly what to expect from their neighbors before they move in while not disclosing anything related to race, gender or age. Here are four additions to the rating system and our remarks, as honestly, we’re a little flabbergasted that this rating system exists and we aren’t quite sure it’s a good thing …

Garage Vibes

“Homeowners across the board agree good neighbors keep their garages tidy and their garage doors shut when the space is not in use,” says Zillow spokesperson Bridget Tanga. “That’s why we’re giving residents the opportunity to rank their neighbors’ garage habits. A clean, well-organized garage with closed doors and spotless, newer model cars inside is sure to earn a five-star rating and may even help surrounding homes sell for a higher price.” As evidence, Bridget cites a recent study from Consumer Reports suggesting positive neighbor ratings can increase the value of a home by as much as 10 percent.

Our thoughts: We hate seeing messy garages, too. 

Trash Can Takeback

Thanks to Zillow, neighbors can now rate one another’s trashcan etiquette, perhaps encouraging some neighbors to improve their questionable trashcan habits. “Everyone on our street knows trash pickup is on Wednesdays,” says Brentwood, Tennessee resident Anneliese Scemo. “So when the single mom at the end of our cul-de-sac kept leaving her trash can out until Friday or even Saturday afternoon, my husband and I both gave her a two out of five on Rate Your Neighbor. That fixed the problem,” Anneliese giggles triumphantly. “Zillow sent her a notification about her new rating and after that, she never left her trash can out past Wednesday again!”

Our thoughts: We did ask Zillow if they will have a passive-aggressive rating … they have yet to reply.

Before she and her husband left their neighbor a two-star rating, Anneliese Scemo says this was a standard Saturday morning sight. After? That can goes back behind the house ON trash day. Problem solved!

Animal Instincts

Want to avoid moving next door to a crazy cat lady or a breeder of bloodhounds? Be sure to check Zillow’s Rate Your Neighbor results before you sign those closing papers. Now, you can find out about your future neighbors’ barking dogs, non-neutered cats, or squawking parrots before deciding whether you want to live next door to them. Residents who upload photographic or video proof can also report pet owners who let their dogs poop on other neighbors’ lawns. “Any evidence of this kind of behavior gives that neighbor an immediate overall rating of one out of five stars,” Bridget confirms. “Our research shows homebuyers have zero tolerance for anyone who lets their dogs do their business on a neighbor’s property without bothering to clean up afterward. I mean, that’s just gross.”

Our thoughts: We don’t understand how Zillow says they aren’t disclosing race, gender or age if they are accepting video or photos. But, technology has come a long way, so maybe there is some software that removes the people and only shows the pets?

Personality Check

Residents can now reward especially friendly neighbors by giving them a five-star personality rating. They can also use this category to put cranky neighbors on blast. That’s exactly what Cad and Cayleigh Amadan did after moving next door to a retired bachelor who yelled at them each time their Cavapoo set so much as a paw on his property. The couple ended up moving a few months later, but not before sharing their thoughts on Rate Your Neighbor. “We had no problem giving the guy a one-star rating,” Cad says. “We felt a responsibility to let this man’s future neighbors know what they’re getting into before they buy a house anywhere near him.”

“We’re planning on starting a family soon,” Cayleigh adds. “Can you even imagine what a man like that could do to a young child’s self-esteem? We ended up having to put our Cavapoo on anti-anxiety meds!”

Our thoughts: We’re still perplexed on why someone would rate a neighbor poorly since it affects their own home value. But, as people would rather yell at each other on social media than have an actual conversation, perhaps it’s worth the home value decrease?

For the Amadans, having to put their Cavapoo, pictured here, on anti-anxiety meds because of their neighbor was the last straw. They put their house on the market, but not before doling out a one-star rating on Rate Your Neighbor for guy next door. Image: Caleigh Amadan’s Instagram

Rate Your Neighbor appears to be having an impact on the real estate market. “Early results indicate houses with high neighbor ratings are selling an average of 20 days sooner than houses with low neighbor ratings,” reports Bridget. “We’re excited to see what kind of impact Rate Your Neighbor has on the marketplace over time. We believe it could also actually inspire neighbors to be kinder to each other, knowing their rating could impact their home’s overall value.”

For Madison Durak, Zillow’s new feature is simply making her search for a dream home a little less stressful. “I just want to live next to people who look and act like me,” she explains. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Rate Your Neighbor lets me pinpoint which neighborhoods have cool people who share my aesthetic and which ones are filled with weirdos and jerks.”

So, what do you think? Is Rate Your Neighbor a good thing or a bad thing? 


Published on April 1, 2021.

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