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Think 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 with the (so far) much-maligned 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, has never been all that clear that it is a service provided by REALTORS® in Canada, and the switch to takes care of that. And I do believe it was time for a technology update – 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 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 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 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 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, will be far superior to

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 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 My services are available to buyers at no cost.

Tim Ayres – Sooke Real Estate Professional

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Microsoft Surface: Imagine the Possibilities

Microsoft Surface I’ve been meaning to blog about Microsoft’s Surface technology for a while now, but a video from TechCrunch this morning (below) has reminded me how utterly cool this is. The concept was conceived in 2001 and the first prototype was in 2003, so it’s nothing new, but we have yet to see any sort of large-scale rollout.

The implications for real estate technology are huge. Imagine one of these units in your office. Your clients and prospects would no doubt be wowed by the seamless integration of all the aspects of your business, and the novel way it was presented to them. Watch the videos below. The first is a YouTube video from a year or so ago which shows some of the neat features, and the second is the TechCrunch video [it’s kind of loud!] from this week’s CES show, going on in Las Vegas, which helps explain how it works and clarify some of the differences between this technology and other multi-touch interfaces. More commentary after the videos.

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One of the most exciting features of this technology is how it differs from other touch-screen interfaces. There are no embedded capacitors in the surface which means that unlike most touch-screen displays, you don’t have to baby it. The surface is hard plastic, so things can be dropped on it, spilled on it, and generally moved about without fear of damaging the sensitivity of the interface. This is important in our real estate world. We all know how office equipment can get used and abused. One would assume that a badly scratched surface would inhibit touch sensitivity, but some special polish or tabletop replacement would be a relatively inexpensive repair, since it is just a plastic surface.

Imagine meeting some buyers at your office. You fire up the Surface, drag about the pictures of the listings they’re interested in, and then let the system plan out a driving route, text-message the listing agents to make the appointments, and then transfer all the information to your mobile phone or PDA to guide you there along the way! While you drive, the text message confirmations come to your phone/PDA, turning the listing map points from yellow to green or red, indicating that the showings are confirmed or denied.

The clients are ready to offer. Back at the office, the purchase contracts are laid out on the Surface computer. All information is pulled from WebForms, as you are already familiar with. The clients read over the contract, sign using any object (a pen, pencil, their finger, etc), and you drag the contract across the table to the e-mail or fax icon. Away it goes to the other agent. Now you can flick it across to the printer icon to get the clients a hard copy.

These are but two exciting possibilities for this technology in the real estate world. I’m sure you could think of many more. As we move away from the traditional mouse/keyboard interfaces and into the ever-increasing world of multi-touch computing, expect more and more innovation and technology to make your life and work easier, and admittedly, more fun.

Tim Ayres

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Hi all,

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