For now, Seattle-based real estate mega site Zillow is targeting only American eyeballs for Canadian properties through a new deal that gives it a direct feed to Century 21 Canada listings.
The company announced Wednesday that it expects to feature Canadian real estate, including the Century 21 listings, later this year.
The Zillow Group’s sites and apps, including Zillow.com and Trulia.com, draw about 175 million eyeballs a month.
Century 21 has 265 Canadian franchises with 400 offices here listing about 26,300 properties.
“We know U.S. buyers are interested in purchasing Canadian real estate, so we’re excited to offer the millions of buyers already coming to Zillow for their home search an easy way to see homes for sale in Canada and connect with an agent to help navigate the sale,” the company’s Vancouver-based chief industry development officer Errol Samuelson says in the release.
But it is unclear how far Zillow’s Canadian ambitions extend longer term.
It is foremost a media company that generates revenue by selling ads next to real estate listings. But Zillow has been testing a program called Instant Offers in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Orlando where Zillow connects home sellers with potential investor buyers or an agent to help sell their home. The idea is to provide consumers with convenience and help them confirm their selling price and timing in the market.
In Phoenix, Zillow is also trying a model where it purchases homes itself.
Although the press release says Zillow is talking to Multiple Listings Services and real estate boards in Canada, it doesn’t say whether it will be able to publish the same depth of information it offers on American properties where it lists the selling prices of homes.
“The big thing they’re known for — at least if you ask a regular person in the U.S. — is how much homes are sold for,” said Keith McSpurren, CEO of TheRedPin, a Toronto-based online brokerage.
The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) has been fighting in court for years to prevent password-protected broker websites from publishing the sales prices of properties. The courts have ruled in favour of those online brokerages being able to publish sold data. But TREB is now asking the Supreme Court of Canada to consider hearing its arguments for overturning those lower court rulings.
“I’m not surprised (Zillow) is coming into Canada. They’ve got a desire to basically map the world with all the homes that are available,” said McSpurren.
But Zillow Group’s edge is its scale rather than innovation, whereas TheRedPin is using software and artificial intelligence to try and improve real estate transactions for consumers and agents, he said.
McSpurren says Zillow’s main focus in the U.S. industry is for lead generation and that doesn’t pose a threat to the Canadian industry at this point. It sells ads to agents so that when a consumer clicks on a property, an agent’s ad pops up on the screen.
The Instant Offer idea is a “very different business model” — the idea that buying a house can be as simple as buying a car or other items is an interesting idea. But it is a “very different business model” that requires a lot of capital and it changes the risk profile of the business dramatically, he said.
“I don’t think you’ll see that showing up in Canada until they prove it in the U.S. first,” said McSpurren.
The Canadian Real Estate Association’s Realtor.ca is the most popular online home listing service in Canada.
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