As national headlines raise questions about why sales information is so closely guarded by the real estate industry, Canadian home listings portal Real Estate Wire (REW) is disrupting the market by empowering consumers with access to the data they need to make the best choices.
“There’s a frenzy in Vancouver and Toronto real estate, and people are flying blind when making major decisions about property,” said Allen Moon, real estate technologist and vice-president of REW. “Currently, consumers have to rely on agents to give them sales information, which isn’t always ideal. Consumers need access to this information so that they can feel comfortable making their own informed decisions.”
REW is empowering consumers with property searches that are faster, smarter and easier to use on mobile. Originally the online branch of established listings newspaper Real Estate Weekly, it began its digital transformation in 2011 with only four developers in the basement and 10,000 monthly views on its site. Today REW is a thriving technology company with 31 full-time staff and 2.5 million online visits per month.
REW’s sophisticated search engine allows buyers to search for a home not just by city and neighbourhood but also by school catchment, condo building or listing agent. In 2018, REW will be launching insights such as detailed neighbourhood market trends, and valuations of what your home is worth.
“People are no longer looking for how many bedrooms and baths. They want answers such as where can I afford to buy? How have prices in this neighbourhood changed? Where are the best investment properties? Technology needs to better reflect the conversations people are having over dinner,” added Moon, a 15-year veteran of real estate technology, having built his career in California with companies such as Realtor.com.
Canada is lagging far behind other countries in terms of data access, because MLS® transaction data is both limited to and guarded by the real estate boards. In the US, consumers have full access to sales data, which has allowed for greater tech innovations. Take Zillow’s Zestimate®, for example, where home owners can identify sales trends helping them decide the right time to sell, how much for, as well as estimate the price of their next home. However, a recent federal court ruling in Toronto has opened up the floodgates to real estate data, ruling that the Toronto Real Estate Board may not prevent agents from publishing sales information.
“Canada’s at least seven years behind in real estate tech. The rate of change will grow exponentially to the point where it will be a US company that ends up dominating the Canadian market,” said Moon.
REW’s in-house data team said it aims to empower Canadians with more information and the same transparency enjoyed in other markets.
After the challenges faced by consumers in 2017, such as the fallout from the foreign buyer tax and getting ahead of new mortgage rules, “2018 marks the year when Canadian consumers can win with real estate technology,” said Moon.