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Realtor.ca Now Sucks Even Less!

I had posted about a month or so ago about how the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) had listened to consumers and REALTORS® nationwide and made some much needed improvements to its much-maligned REALTOR.ca experience.

Last Thursday, additional improvements were rolled out to REALTOR.ca which should improve the user experience even more.

A new Gallery View display will show up to 12 photos of the property (assuming there are that many on the listing) over the interactive map display. Look for the button at the upper right of the map page.

Thumbnail View display will provide 12 property photos at a time with the property description and links to other features like virtual tours or other multimedia. The button to enable this feature is also located in the upper right of the map page.

Unless you’re using Safari on a Mac, you’ll notice that the “save search” function has been moved to a more prominent place on the page, making it easier to find and use to save your favourite searches. Safari users will notice this enhancement at a later date.

Searching by MLS® number should also work better.

Firefox 3 users should also notice that the site works better for them.

Last but not least, searching by neighbourhood name should also be getting better. This was a great frustration for many users used to searching on MLS.ca by clicking on the MLS district name (for example Victoria-Fairfield or Sooke-Whiffen Spit). A reminder from CREA that if you’re searching a specific area by name and don’t get the expected results, send them an e-mail at helpdesk@crea.ca with the details and they will follow up to make sure it gets added to the database.

As always, if you’re having trouble with REALTOR.ca, contact me at 250-885-0512 or using the previous link and I’ll help you set up a real estate search on my client portal which will e-mail you new listings and price changes that match your criteria. With so many listings on the market, a REALTOR® can really help narrow it down to find the place that’s right for you.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Think Realtor.ca Sucks? It Will Get Better Soon

Actual Users, Maude and Bill

Actual Users, Maude and Bill

Since the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) replaced the much-loved MLS.ca with the (so far) much-maligned REALTOR.ca last month, they’ve had nothing but complaints from everyone who uses it (consumers) and everyone who benefits from it (REALTORS® in Canada).

I can understand the domain name switch. Since its inception, MLS.ca has never been all that clear that it is a service provided by REALTORS® in Canada, and the switch to REALTOR.ca takes care of that. And I do believe it was time for a technology update – MLS.ca was pretty old-school.

But it worked, and it was simple. CREA threw the baby out with the bathwater on this one.

Yesterday, I noticed an update on our REALTOR® intranet, which outlined a few changes that will take place later this month, which should help to improve the overall user experience.

Users may have noticed that there is a limit on how far you can zoom into the interactive map. You can zoom only so far, and then it sort of bounces back to the limited zoom level. Effective November 20th, this restriction will be removed. This should help alleviate the “500 property” warning because you will be able to zoom down to reduce the number of properties displayed on the map. The map will also stop “yo-yo-ing”  as users reach the zoom limit and it snaps back to a wider view.

A big complaint has been the clunky way that neighbourhoods are handled. CREA assumed everyone would enjoy zooming down into the specific neighbourhood that they were interested in. This is in contrast to the old static MLS.ca maps where you could drill down to the specific MLS zones set up by the various real estate boards. For example, you could click BC–> Vancouver Island/Smaller Islands –> Victoria–> Sooke–> Broom Hill to see all the listings in that MLS zone. The Realtor.ca experience so far has been limited. The site was launched before many of these neighbourhoods could be defined in the database. So when somebody searched for Broom Hill, they might get the actual geographical feature rather than the MLS zone of the same name – clearly a problem. CREA has identified and added some 3500 of these areas since October 2nd, and will continue to add more as the local real estate boards provide the data. The Victoria Real Estate Board has been on this since day one and many of our MLS sub-areas are already in the CREA database. This is probably the largest issue with the site, and it will get better.

The issue of limited/no compatibility with non-Internet Explorer web browsers (Firefox, Safari, etc) is also being worked on. Thank-you, CREA, for no longer excluding some 47% of browser market share 😉

2008 IE7 IE6 Chrome FireFox Moz Safari O
October 26.9% 20.2% 3.0% 44.0% 0.4% 2.8% 2.2%
September 26.3% 22.3% 3.1% 42.6% 0.5% 2.7% 2.0%

There have also been complaints that photos are too small (I agree!), thumbnail information that pops up when you mouse over a property on the map is insufficient (probably), and that the listings are just too hard to find. There are changes that are being tested to address these issues as well.

Specifically in our marketplace, one of the problems has been that too many listings have appeared in the “not mapped” column which makes them extremely hard to find. This was caused by our previous MLS back-end software, which had an antiquated procedure for placing properties on a map. Also, the default data setting was to not supply an address to MLS.ca. With our new MLS system, the default is reversed, and all of the old listings were automatically mapped by address and postal code as they were imported into the new database, so that should solve most of the problem.

We want REALTOR.ca to work. Believe me. CREA spends millions of our (the REALTORS®) dollars to create and operate that site for the benefit of consumers. Canada is lucky to have it. There is no equivalent in the U.S., where MLS data is sometimes split across different websites for one city, let alone the entire country like we have here. I believe that once the bugs are worked out, REALTOR.ca will be far superior to MLS.ca

Questions? Comments? Post them below (or click through to the post if you’re reading this in a reader).

If you’re still having trouble with REALTOR.ca or would like more detailed information than it provides,  I can set up a private client portal for you to view the Sooke or Victoria MLS listings. Give me a call any time at 250-885-0512, fill in my buyer’s form, or shoot me an e-mail at Tim@TimAyres.ca. My services are available to buyers at no cost.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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CompatibleAgent.com Launches in BC

A while back, I wrote a post entitled A Bold Statement, about local startup CompatibleAgent.com and their aspirations to be as widely known and used as MLS.ca in Canada within a year. Shortly thereafter, I received a response from the president of the company, Mark Stewart. Mark stands behind his product and his statements made in his advertising to REALTORS®, and firmly believes that the lofty target is achievable.

Mark offered me a trial membership to the service, which I took him up on – I’d love to see how well the service works. I told him I’d post occasionally about my experiences on the blog. Compatible Agent launched in BC on Monday, and plans a nationwide rollout over the next few months; a new province every 4-6 weeks. They’ve got a TV commercial airing daily on CHEK and Global.

The whole premise of the system is to match consumers with an agent that is compatible with their needs. For example, if younger clients tend to prefer to work with an agent their own age or similar, they will be able to search for this.

For now, just the agent search function is running – so they’ve  got a bit of work to do before the real estate portal they envision comes together. The site is easy to navigate and is fast and intuitive. Below is the welcome video on the site. My profile is here.

Tim Ayres

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A Bold Statement

Local Upstart REALTOR® Prospecting Site Thinks it has what it takes to rival MLS.ca

MLS.ca. Canada’s nationwide MLS. Every MLS listing, coast-to-coast. It’s practically a cultural institution, and millions of people use it to peek at their neighbour’s decorating scheme, or to view photos of houses before a military house-hunting trip in Halifax.

I received an e-mail last week (unsolicited, I might add) from a company calling itself CompatibleAgent.com, which contained a link to a video about their service. In a nutshell, it’s a searchable database and referral service for members of the public who are looking for an agent. They fill in a form, and are “matched” (read: referred as a lead) to an agent that is, well, compatible.

I received another e-mail today (again, unsolicited) which contained an incredibly bold (and misleading, I think) statement:

For those of you who have sent us feedback we thank you, and its obvious that Realtors believe this is a great idea…but the biggest concern you all have is a good one, and that is paying for advertising that is brand new, not yet established and that has an un-certain future. We do understand this and don’t blame Realtors for having this concern, therefore we as a company want to prove to you that CompatibleAgent.com is here to stay, that it is going to be a huge benefit to its members business and that we promise that we will be as widely used as MLS.ca within 1 year.

Wow. That’s ambitious. Here’s why I am skeptical: Alexa.com, which ranks Internet traffic, scores MLS.ca as the 78th most-visited Internet site in Canada. This puts it above The Globe and Mail, Workopolis, Bank Of Montreal, and slightly below 2 other banking websites. MLS.ca is the first result returned on Google.ca for Real Estate. CompatibleAgent.com purports they’ll accomplish this lofty goal through an extensive national TV, radio and print advertising campaign starting in June, making it a “household name.” I wonder if they researched this claim at all.

Even though they’ve slashed the price to join the service, I think I’ll wait and see. Show me some proof of your claim, and I’ll sign a 10-year contract!

Tim Ayres


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