February 1st - 2011

Vision for future of real estate technology unveiled

Giving a competitive edge to REALTORS® is the goal of several new technology innovations being developed by the Canadian Real Estate Association’s MLS® and Technology Council (MTC).

Giving a competitive edge to REALTORS® is the goal of several new technology innovations being developed by the Canadian Real Estate Association’s MLS® and Technology Council (MTC).

The council has announced that consumers and real estate professionals can enjoy new mobile applications recently launched for smartphones, but they can also look forward to a highly souped-up website at REALTOR.ca over the next year as well as significant enhancements to MLS® data in the future.

Taking advantage of explosive growth in the mobile web is a big part of the council’s strategy, according to Gary Zalepa Jr., a real estate professional from Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Chair of MTC. The introduction of the REALTOR.ca application for the iPhone has met with rave reviews, he says.

The mobile app is listed among the top ten downloads in the Apple iStore, with more than 80,000 downloads since its launch just before the holidays, says Zalepa. The council also introduced an application for the Windows 7 phone, and the Blackberry app will be launched within the next month. These mobile applications integrate GPS technology so consumers can search for and learn about properties and listings in a specific area from the comfort of their car – or anywhere. If consumers see something they like, they can connect instantly with either their own REALTOR® or the listing brokerage.

Members have generated many of the ideas contained in the council’s vision, says Zalepa. “We host an annual tech forum where participants bounce ideas around and then we take them to smaller round table discussions at the annual member forum. These are innovations that REALTORS® are asking for and are comfortable with.”

One idea recently launched was the mobile version of WebForms™ (www.m.webforms.info). Using this application, members can transmit and manage documents from a remote location. According to CREA member survey data, WEBForms™ is consistently identified by as one of the most valuable tools by real estate professionals. With this in mind, the council is looking into the possibility of upgrading the application in the near future to provide added access for clients to complete and submit forms electronically, Zalepa says.

Website enhancements
REALTOR.ca consistently ranks as the most popular website in the country for property searches and is a market leader, according to CREA consumer surveys. “But technology is rapidly changing, and REALTOR.ca must keep up to maintain its competitive advantage,” says Zalepa. “We see a big advantage to leveraging the creativity and ideas of third parties to help move the site into the era of the social web. We realize that we can’t do it all ourselves, and there are a lot of third party developers who could come up with cool gadgets.”

The council is currently looking at developing a platform to support third party applications. These applications will “mash” other sources of data with MLS® content with the resulting view limited only by the imagination, he notes. A good example is “walkscore” (www.walkscore.com), where the walkscore Widget takes a geographic location, mashes several sources of Google data, and gives the user a view of how “walkable” a property is.

From determining the pedestrian-friendliness of a community to cross-referencing potential homes with local school data, these new apps will prove very practical and useful to consumers and real estate professionals. To give users a more customizable experience, a login feature will also be added to allow for personalized settings, searches and features. All apps or widgets developed will be subject to approval by the MTC, he adds.

Data distribution
Protecting the integrity of MLS® content is another challenge that the council will tackle, he notes, in view of the fact that many individuals, boards and associations upload listing information to other consumer sites like Kijiji, for example. The council has begun talks with board leaders to allow permission-based distribution of content from REALTOR.ca. This would give real estate professionals more choice on where to promote their listings while maintaining the MLS® data quality and brand.

Members will be able to access enhanced statistical information once the MLS® data is repackaged. They will be able to see how many hits their listing received, not only on REALTOR.ca but also on other sites. “These developments will take real estate marketing efforts to the next level,” says Zalepa. “REALTORS® will be able to demonstrate to clients that they are serious about marketing and understand how to harness the internet to their advantage.”

The council’s philosophy embraces the fact that technology constantly changes, Zalepa says. “With continued input and advice from members, the MTC wants to ensure that we can take advantage of the ways modern consumers make choices and how REALTORS® like to do business.”

To find out more about the MTC, visit www.realtorlink.ca.

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For more information contact

Ontario Real Estate Association

Jean-Adrien Delicano

Manager, Media Relations

JeanAdrienD@orea.com

416-445-9910 ext. 246