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Zillow has landed in Canada and with it, the opportunity to change how you search for a home. But what does it really mean for Toronto Buyers and Sellers? And how is the real estate industry already  screwing up the opportunity?

But before we begin…what the heck is Zillow?

Zillow is America’s number one real estate portal for home Buyers and Sellers. They aren’t a brokerage – they’re a media company. In the US, the Zillow website:

  • Lists homes available for sale and rent
  • Contains data about homes not currently for sale, including previous sold prices
  • Profiles real estate agents and real customer reviews
  • Provides Zestimates (home valuations based on computer algorithms)
  • Allows potential Buyers to connect with a property’s listing agent and up to three other agents who have paid to advertise

In Canada, REALTOR associations have long-protected real estate data (don’t get me started). After losing a decade-long court case that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) now has to publicly share some of their data…but there’s still a long way to go. The Zillow we see in Canada isn’t yet what it could be.

In Canada, Zillow currently:

  • Lists SOME homes available for sale and for rent
  • Allows Buyers and Sellers to research REALTORS and read real estate reviews
  • Allows potential Buyers to connect directly with the listing agent of a property

Zillow in Canada CANNOT yet:

  • List ALL of the homes for sale In order for a property to be displayed on Zillow, the Seller’s brokerage needs to have signed an agreement with them. Unfortunately, some of the biggest brokerages in Ontario have opted to keep their listings off of Zillow, even though there’s no cost to them to promote a listing.
  • Share historical sold data The Supreme Court ruling only requires TREB to allow brokerages to share sold price data, so they can still restrict non-brokerages like Zillow from posting the data.
  • Provide Zestimates or valuations This would be nearly impossible to do without having access to sold data.

Why is Zillow Important For Toronto Buyers?

Zillow is a better, more user-friendly home search experience. It’s better than REALTOR.CA and any of the other real estate portals we have in Canada and it’s one of the best places to read real estate reviews. Zillow has already been embraced by Canadians, with the site receiving more than 500,000 monthly Canadian visitors, despite having just launched here in October and not yet displaying most of the listings.

If I was a Canadian home Buyer, I’d want to search on Zillow.

Let’s Mobilize: If you want to be able to search ALL the homes for sale in Toronto on Zillow, call your agent’s brokerage and encourage them to share their listings. Sometimes, change only comes when the consumer demands it.

Why is Zillow Important For Sellers?

If you’re looking to sell your home for the highest possible price and in the least amount of time, it needs to be marketed to as many people as possible. Period. If Buyers are searching for their dream home on Zillow, don’t you want your home to be one of the ones they see? Do you really care which website they saw your home on?

Let’s Mobilize: If you’re hiring an agent to sell your Toronto home, make sure to ask: Will my home be featured on Zillow? If they say no, you might want to keep looking for an agent and brokerage who share your goal of getting the most exposure for your home and promoting it where Buyers are searching. Sometimes, change only comes when the consumer speaks with their wallet.

Why is Zillow controversial with Canadian REALTORS?

The real estate industry is often accused of putting their own interests ahead of the consumers’ interests, from their opposition to publicly sharing sold prices to the inadequate code of ethics (finally under review) to the new debate about sharing listing data with real estate portals. If Zillow gives the consumer more choice, why are so many brokerages opposed to sharing their data with them? Phil Soper, the President of Royal LePage and one of the most vocal opponents to Zillow wrote an article about it here.  What would happen if agents and brokerages put the consumer at the centre of their decisions instead of self-preservation?

Here’s why the BREL team supports  Zillow:

When the BREL team became BREL Union Realty Brokerage, one of the first things we did was agree to share our listings with Zillow:

  • We believe that Canadian home Buyers deserve a better digital home search experience. Buyers should be able to search for a home on a beautiful platform that’s intuitive and has the data they want and mirrors the online experiences they have while researching and purchasing almost any other goods or services.
  • We believe that Toronto home Sellers deserve to have their homes seen by as many potential Buyers as possible. More Potential Buyers = Faster Sales + Higher Prices.
  • We think that our jobs as REALTORS is to do the best thing for our clients. Every time.

Zillow is here and it promises change. Let’s hope Toronto’s real estate industry is ready to embrace it.

If you’re a REALTOR, make sure to check out a blog a wrote just for you: Zillow for REALTORS: Friend or Foe?

 

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