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[Marketing] A breakdown of SothebyRealty.ca's search experience

Posted by Aron Korenblit on Nov 30, 2018 2:41:43 PM

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About Sotheby's Realty International Canada

Sotheby’s International Realty Canada is the leading international real estate sales and marketing company for the country’s most exceptional properties. With offices in over 30 residential and resort markets nationwide, and a global affiliate sales network of over 970 offices in over 72 countries and territories, the international sales and marketing company showcases every property it represents, regardless of neighborhood or price point, on a premier, global digital and publications network.

Their listings include a wide range of home styles, including houses, condos, townhomes, villas and more. They also specialize in matching lifestyle choices to home purchasing decisions, such as waterfront, golf, island, equestrian, ski and much more.

Want the full breakdown? Check out our analysis here in this slideshow. 


When it comes to Canada, Sotheby's International Realty Canada dominates the online luxury market. Similarweb estimates their website traffic at 300K users per month, making SIR one of the largest luxury brokerage web portals in the country.

In line with their distinct brand, they boast a sleek, modern and intuitive web experience for their visitors. Let’s dive into their desktop UX to discover what makes them superior to the competition.

The Home Search

The primary goal here is to keep it simple, and Sotheby’s nails it. Less successful sites would have a high bounce rate, signalling that the search process is too busy or complicated. The Sotheby site, however, does an excellent job of moving users seamlessly through the funnel towards its property listings. Here’s how.

The first intuitive step they take is to automatically guide home buyers to the most common search terms, without requiring them to type into the search box This clever approach shows that SIR Canada is doing its homework. Since the first instinct of most users is to search by city, you already know what the user usually types. So why waste money on Google autocomplete credits?

Sotheby's web experience

Notice also that there are no additional filters to distract the home buyers at this point. Location is the only qualifier for viewing properties … or so it would seem. Once the homebuyer starts typing, Sotheby’s embeds other pertinent filters right in the search results.


This makes a lot of sense for Sotheby’s audience. The luxury buyer is most likely already aware of the type of home they’re looking for since this isn’t their first purchase, and they just want to move the search process forward quickly to get to those listings.

While this trick may not work for portals with a wider audience, Sotheby’s knows their target market inside and out. Removing distractions to ensure a quick user experience is a trade-off they’re willing to make.

Did you notice that “powered by Google” appears nowhere on the site? This means that SIR built this functionality in-house, removing any possibility for the user to search by address or point of interest – which, in our experience, a minority of homebuyers would otherwise take advantage of (with the major exception of searching by schools).

And of course, Mandarin speakers will quickly notice that they can view this website in their native language – an immediate score.

The Search Results

Once the user has selected or entered a location, they’re shown listings ordered inversely by price in a grid layout (12 per page by default). They are now given additional filtering options, but these still remain standard: location (nearby cities and neighbourhoods), price, amenities and sort preferences.

Location Location Location

Here’s another shining example of how well Sotheby’s understands its audience.

Luxury buyers are finicky. The importance of living in the right part of town cannot be overstated. The location tab hones in on this need by offering an exhaustive list of neighbourhoods to choose from.

And can you see another reason why Sotheby’s doesn’t want Google to power its search bar? They’ve already mapped properties to neighborhoods and cities all across Canada. It’s this neighborhood (and home type) mapping that powers their search.

As the user scrolls down, SIR Canada skillfully inserts area profiles in each neighborhood and city results page. This feature not only builds links within the website (giving them an SEO boost), it allows those home buyers who aren’t quite ready to reach out to a realtor a way to stay informed on their preferred neighborhood.

sotheby's preferred neighborhood

The Property Listing

Hands-down, this is the pièce de résistance of the website, as the homebuyer is greeted with large (we mean huge!) photos of the property. Sotheby’s has it right – this is what people have come to see, so they don’t hold back when giving it to them! If the buyer wants even larger photos, it’s as easy as a click on the photo options.

When the homebuyer is ready for finer details, Sotheby’s provides easily recognized links to the other important sections of the listing: area and property descriptions.

From there, the user can get into the details of each room. An intelligent feature here is the scrolling realtor conversion form which moves down the screen with the reader, reminding them that the realtor is never more than a click away. What’s more, the navigation bar also follows the user, offering links to other important parts of the listing.


The Area Description

Perhaps we’re biased, but this is our favourite part of the listing page. To give homebuyers the best vantage point on the neighborhood, Sotheby’s implemented our Local Content solution full-width widget to align the local scores with the rest of the page.

Too often, portals don’t take advantage of the extra width on desktop, but Sotheby’s is pioneering the first such implementation. As a matter of fact, we love it so much that we now recommend the full-width desktop implementation to all of our clients.

An Ideal Balance of Simplicity and Luxury

Overall, Sotheby Canada’s desktop experience is a perfect reflection of their brand: sleek, simple and luxurious.

But while Sotheby’s properties may be exclusive, the challenge they faced was the same as any other portal – how to move the home buyer down the funnel quickly and without confusion while helping them whittle down their options.

Sotheby’s International Realty Canada elegantly achieved this by tucking away a wide variety of selections, opting instead to put the spotlight on what luxury home buyers care about most: the property and its location.


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Aron Korenblit

Written by Aron Korenblit

Customer Success Manager at Local Logic. If I think it's interesting, I'll probably write something about it. If other people find that writing interesting, it'll end up here. Avid traveller & mediocre squash player despite all my best efforts.