Since Zillow has hit the 50K listing milestone and is growing its Canadian footprint, we thought we’d welcome them to Canada with a helpful primer on Canadian real estate.
Yes, it’s cold up here and we sure love our hockey. But winter-related cliches aside, there are some important differences between the Canadian and American property landscapes.
You fancy yourselves experts on Canada, eh? Well, here are 5 things to keep in mind about the Canadian real estate market.
There are 10 million French-speaking Canadians, 72% of which - or roughly 20% of the population - identify French as their mother tongue. Bilingualism is an important part of our Canadian identity, and consumers expect to be served that way everywhere – even online.
To grow its footprint in predominantly-French Quebec, Zillow has no choice but to translate its website into French. A lack of willingness to do so right out of the gate may explain why Zillow has no listings in our Belle Province.
Not only that, but Zillow must consider adding the languages a real estate agent speaks so consumers can find their perfect agent. To put it simply, even if Zillow touts a Canada-wide launch, without Quebec, it’s missing out on a big chunk of the real estate market.
Canadian Agents Don’t Pay for Leads... Yet.
You may think that Canadian real estate agents have it good. You’d be right.
The dominant real estate portal here in the Great White North is Realtor.ca (not to be confused with the U.S. based Realtor.com). This portal, which is owned and operated by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), runs its operating budget from the roughly 310$ it collects in fees from each member each year.
In exchange for those fees, Realtor.ca provides its members with buyer leads free of charge, among other benefits. It’s as if NAR, having never leased the Realtor.com brand to Move Inc., owned and operated the largest real estate website in the U.S. – lock, stock and barrel! We’re sure a lot of American agents wish this was their reality.
This means that without a deep-pocketed player like Zillow, web traffic has historically been evenly distributed among online portals (although Realtor.ca is the clear leader). Brands such as Royal LePage and Remax are able to generate their fair share of SEO traffic on their own and compete on keywords with Realtor.ca and smaller pay-to-play portals.
What’s more, all Canadian real estate franchises provide leads they generate on their website free of charge to their network. So not only do agents get free leads from the top dog, but they also get free leads from their brand’s high-traffic websites. How can you compete with free?
But Zillow may be the bell toll … if it succeeds in generating significant Canadian traffic, it may spell the end of “free” leads for Canadian real estate professionals.
The Loonie Goes Up and Down
The value of the U.S. dollar to the Canadian dollar fluctuates quite a bit. I personally remember crossing the border back in 2013 to scour for deals when our dollar was strong. Nowadays, I regularly hear my U.S. colleagues talk about Monopoly money when it comes to our Loonies.
The U.S. dollar currently sits at its highest rate relative to the Canadian dollar since 2003. Meanwhile, pundits are forecasting a slowdown of home price growth in the U.S. Together, these factors may give Americans the impression that Canadian homes are available at a discount and create an opportunity for Zillow to market them as investment properties.
Why should this matter to Zillow? Because people lining up to buy a home through Zillow is good news for its bottom line – no matter where they’re from..
We’re Always Watching You. Yes, YOU.
Some people say we’re the boring neighbour above a roaring party, but I like to think we let ideas battle it out in the U.S. and then just copy the good ones.
For example, we’ve noticed a lot of real estate portals defaulting to a map view instead of a list view of available properties. We’ve also noticed how Zillow cleaned up its search bar of any superfluous options. Now that they’ve paved the way, the Canadian market is finally following suit.
One idea that we hope flows the other way is Canadian portals’ emphasis on lifestyle.
I know it’s extremely un-Canadian of us to toot our own horn, but with over 70% of Canadian home buyers using Local Logic’s tools to find the right home, we can safely say we’re kind of a big thing up here. We’ve helped brands like Realtor.ca, Royal LePage, Remax and Sotheby’s International Realty Canada increase conversions and adapt their portals to their new lifestyle-focused consumer.
Want to talk about it? You know how to reach us.
Z is “Zed” not “Zee”
Oh... and one last thing: it’s Zed-I-L-L-O-W. It doesn’t actually matter, but we thought we’d throw it out there anyway in case you get some odd - yet polite - looks.