Goodbye MLS.ca, Hello Realtor.ca
Realtor.ca has finally launched and soon the much loathed MLS.ca will finally be put out of its misery. The recent shut down of the popular Housing123 caused quite a stir and reignited the debate over not just the fact that there is are lack of a quality website for viewing properties in this country, but also the Real Estate Industry's handling of the information itself.
The real estate industry in Canada is in some ways unique in that it has managed to avoid to this point what just about every other knowledge-based industry has faced since the invention of the Internet: the mass dissemination of its most precious resource-information. Specifically, they have consistently shut down any attempt that has been made to open up the central MLS database that contains all the information about properties sold and those currently for sale.
One of the main reasons why these 'rogue' sites keep popping up is that MLS.ca is pretty terrible and has been basically unchanged over the last several years. MLS.ca completely missed the whole web 2.0 party and many entrepreneurs and programmer types couldn't take it any longer. But with each new site that emerged, CREA was right behind them to shut them down.
The new Realtor.ca is a great improvement over MLS.ca simply because it has added mapping functionality that has been around on other sites for about 5 years or so. The ability to click and drag the map, as well as switch between map and aerial view are nice touches. Being able to change search criteria in real time without have to click the 'back' button is great too.
Once you see a listing you like and you click on it for more information, several short comings of the site quickly reveal themselves. Photo size and quality are the same as the previous version of MLS.ca, and you have to click the 'back' button to re-enter the map and select a different property. Also, information on a given property is still limited to the MLS.ca fields of the past. Many data fields that Realtors have access to, consumers still do not.
Consumers still have a long way to go before there is a clean, transparent system for accessing real estate listings in Canada. It might never fully be an open system, but we are embarrassingly far away from what is currently available in the U.S. on sites like Trulia.com, Zillow.com, and the like.
What do you think of the new Realtor.ca? Does it do what you want it to do? And what (realistic) suggestions would you make to improve it further?
Image from Realtor.ca.
Andrew la Fleur is a Realtor and a contributor to blogTO.