Correction: ITBusiness.ca has been contacted by Move, Inc. and informed that Realtor.com does not have plans to offer Canadian listings at this time. Julie Reynolds of Move Inc. couldn’t elaborate on comments made by Richard Garcia, but says there are no plans to offer listings in Canada.
“We are not entering the Canadian market in that we are not going to start carrying active, for sale listings in Canada,” she says.
A major online player in real estate listings south of the border will soon be opening its digital doors to the Canadian market, with the help of some key information about neighbourhoods.
Campbell, Calif.-based Move Inc. will start listing Canadian properties on Realtor.com within several weeks, says media spokesperson Richard Garcia. A deal with Norwich, Vt.-based Maponics to provide data about northern neighbourhoods will enable the company to cater to Canuck house hunters. The companies announced the deal Tuesday.
Move Inc. also operates Move.com and a number of other real estate sites serving the U.S. It draws 12.4 million visitors to its online network every month. Soon, Canadians will add to that tally.
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“That’s going to be a first for us,” Garcia says. Move Inc. has offices in Canada and sees this as a natural progression. It has a license to use the data supplied by Maponics.
An example of neighbourhood boundaries displayed on a map.
Maponics offers hand-drawn neighbourhood boundaries for 105,000 neighbourhoods in 2,100 cities worldwide.
By plugging into information from municipalities, local realtors, and user feedback, the firm builds a geo-locational data set that defines the boundaries of a city’s neighbourhoods, the name of the area, and the zoning type.
“We manufacture and maintain spatial data, an actual layer within a map,” explains Mark Friend, vice-president of sales and marketing at Maponics.
“We provide the neighbourhood polygons you choose from. We don’t have anything to do with providing the location information.”
Move Inc. is still working on integrating the new data into its systems, Garcia says. It will take several weeks to launch enhanced services based on that data. A more user-friendly method of searching for properties and some more detailed information organized around neighbourhoods are a couple expected improvements.
Move Inc. currently allows a user to specify a point on a map and search from a radius surrounding it.
Searching by neighbourhood could be useful in Canada depending on the context of its use, says George O’Neill, a sales representative with Royal Lepage Estate Realty. His own brokerage is developing an application that will be able to draw on similar data.
“When we embarked on our little project, we looked at how everyone had done it and it was in a slightly different way than we need it,” he says. “Having all that mapping data is the foundation of creating reliable information.”
Realtor.com won’t be the first online service to include neighbourhood-based search capabilities in Canada. Rogers Digital Media-owned Zoocasa.com currently allows Canadians to search by neighbourhood. A Google Maps mash-up displays the area boundaries and the properties for sale within the area.
Still, there’s a chance to be different, O’Neill says.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been done. It depends very much on what Realtor.com is trying to accomplish here.”
There is already a Realtor.ca that is run by the Canadian Real Estate Association. Realtor.com is a member of the National Association of Realtors in the U.S. If the two are working together, it’s possible one service could enhance the other, O’Neill says.
Realtor.ca “is basically just listings,” he says. “Realtor.com not only has listings, but other community information as well, it’s more rich.”
Maponics provides a Google Maps and Bing Maps mash-up on its own Web site to demonstrate its neighbourhood mapping capabilities. The firm also offers an API that customers can access on a transactional basis, and have the boundary data delivered in real-time.
“As far as a search geography, neighbourhoods can work particularly well for their customer base,” Friend says. “Some people might be shopping for homes in a retirement community or a condominium project … they could use our data to help refine that search.”
Canadian realtors interested in using Realtor.com can sign-up online, or contact the Move Inc. Vancouver office, Garcia says.