Can Netflix Help You Understand Consumers in Your Region?

By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

What does it say about a neighborhood or city if the people living there were more likely to rent the Coen Brothers’ satirical film “Burn After Reading” than the classic popcorn flick “GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra”? More to the point, could it be useful in determining local consumers’ tastes in other areas, such as residences?

The thought occurred to me as I was checking out a new feature on The New York Times Web site that allows users to search the top movie rentals of Netflix customers by zip code in 10 metro areas.

I tried it out by seeing which rentals were popular among citizens of New York. According to the map, a DVD with episodes of the critically acclaimed TV series “Mad Men” was popular (that is, somewhere in the top 20) among residents of Lower Manhattan and northern Brooklyn–and practically nowhere else. On the other hand, “Transporter 3,” a standard action movie, did not even crack the top 100 in those areas, but did very well in the city’s suburbs in northern New Jersey.

My question for real estate pros: Do you think this tool, or other ones like it, would be useful in your line of work? Why or why not?

Brian Summerfield

Brian Summerfield is Manager of Business Development and Outreach for NAR Commercial and Global Services. He can be reached at

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