Maybe it’s the dominant position that MLS.ca (recently rebranded as Realtor.ca) occupies in the market, but real estate search north of the border seems to have been stuck revving in neutral for a while.
Zoocasa is a new free Canadian real estate search engine that aims to kick it in to gear. Zoocasa covers the Canadian market from coast to coast and marries real estate search with research tools, like neighborhood guides and listing comparisons that are aimed at home buyers.
The site does a few things really well. The search queries are fast and results are returned quickly. The site’s pale blue, Web 2.0 palette is a little predictable but not obnoxious.
Individual listing pages map the home with the obligatory Google map and the expected property details (only one photo however!). A unique touch is their Commute Cost Calculator, where you can punch in the address of your work, the fuel consumption of your vehicle and average cost per litre of gas and Zoocasa will return an estimated average fuel bill for your commute.
US search site Estately recently introduced the ability for people to search for homes along transit lines (see Estately Comes to Portland) and we see services like Walkscore that calculate the walkability of particular neighborhoods (see Measuring Walkability with Walk Score). It seems, for a certain segment of the population, these sorts of environmental factors are weighing in on the decision making process.
On a similar note, I wonder if at some point we’ll see Energy costs alongside Property Taxes in the listing details. And how long it will be till we see search sites that allow us to filter out McMansions from our real estate searches (see Are McMansions Making Some Americans Unhappy?)
The only problem with Zoocasa is that its database of homes is pretty slim, probably since it has been cobbled together by indexing brokers sites.
For example, a search in Vancouver, BC:
Also unclear is the site’s business goals. Other than display advertising there doesn’t seem to be a clear revenue model, though I suspect if the site builds enough traffic amongst Canadian consumers, we’ll eventually see the same sponsored listings and zip code sponsorships its US counterparts display.
Despite it’s glossy Web 2.0 shine and its solid performance – Zoocasa is going to have a hard time knocking MLS.ca off its perch. That said, if it can jump start a better search experience for Canadian consumers (Century21.ca is about the only other decent search experience I’ve found) then the race may be on.