In a rapidly evolving real estate market, search portals play a crucial role in connecting buyers and sellers with the properties they desire. Realtor.ca, the preeminent brand in Canada, has earned a reputation for providing reliable and trusted data to consumers.
To gain insights into the future of real estate search portals and specifically Realtor.ca, we sat down with Justin Wah Kan, the associate director of Realtor.ca. With his extensive experience in digital marketing and a passion for empowering consumers, Wah Kan shares his perspectives on the evolving landscape and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
REM: Why do you think the platform continues to hold a strong position in the home search experience in Canada?
Wah Kan: Realtor.ca maintains its prominent position in the Canadian market due to several key factors. Extensive research has validated the brand’s trustworthiness, which stems from the high quality of data it offers. Consistency in user experience is also a significant factor, ensuring that users can rely on Realtor.ca as a consistent and reliable resource. Additionally, the national footprint of Realtor.ca, encompassing the majority of MLS listings, makes it a preferred choice for consumers seeking comprehensive and up-to-date property information.
REM: What is the next step for Realtor.ca to elevate the consumer experience? In other words, what do consumers want from search portals?
Wah Kan: Addressing consumer expectations regarding sold data availability is a key goal for Realtor.ca and CREA. Consumers often wonder why local search portals provide sold data while Realtor.ca does not. To bridge this gap, CREA is actively working with regional real estate boards across Canada to incorporate sold data. However, regulatory restrictions on the disclosure of sold information present hurdles that need to be overcome. By empowering consumers with more data, including sold data, Realtor.ca aims to ensure that consumers are better prepared when they engage with a realtor, leading to more meaningful conversations and increased conversion rates.
REM: Doesn’t having more information available to the consumer mean that the role of the realtor is no longer needed or as valuable?
Wah Kan: Despite the availability of vast amounts of information to consumers, realtors remain essential in the real estate process. The role has evolved from being mere information gatherers to becoming trusted advisors who help buyers and sellers navigate the complexities of the market.
In the past, when listings were only available in paper booklets, buyers had to rely on realtors to gain access to property information and determine if it aligned with their preferences. However, with the advent of online platforms, buyers now have the opportunity to conduct preliminary research and explore available properties before engaging with a realtor. This shift in behaviour has allowed buyers to enter the realtor-client relationship with a clearer understanding of their needs and preferences.
Nonetheless, realtors’ expertise and guidance are still crucial in ensuring a successful and well-informed home-buying journey. Realtors bring valuable insights, market knowledge, and negotiation skills to the table, ensuring that properties align with buyers’ specific needs and preferences. The role may have adapted within the evolving landscape of home search, but their expertise and support continue to play a pivotal role in the real estate process.
REM: How will ChatGPT or other such new ways of searching impact Realtor.ca or other search portals?
Wah Kan: While AI-powered search tools like ChatGPT hold potential, the current searching process ingrained in users’ behaviour presents a challenge for complete transformation. The search process on various portals follows a standardized approach, such as drop-down menus and specific search criteria. It will take time to re-educate consumers and transition them to a conversational search experience. While Realtor.ca is closely monitoring these developments, it recognizes that it may not be at the forefront of initiating such a change in user behaviour.
REM: Apart from sold data and a different search process, how do you think the platform will change in the more distant future?
Wah Kan: We envision a future where Realtor.ca offers a truly personalized experience for its users. Taking inspiration from platforms like Netflix, the importance of understanding users’ preferences, such as the properties they have visited, their children’s schools, and the agents they are working with. By leveraging AI and other relevant data, Realtor.ca aims to provide tailored property recommendations that align with individual users’ needs, thereby enhancing the overall user experience.
REM: What’s the biggest challenge Realtor.ca faces in achieving its highest potential or near-term goals?
Wah Kan: CREA’s primary challenge lies in competing with the vast budgets of publicly traded tech companies. While CREA aims to generate revenue and allocate resources efficiently, it is challenging to match the financial resources of large corporations. However, the team behind Realtor.ca remains committed to setting goals for the future and actively adapting to evolving consumer demands. CREA embraces new market entrants and strives to stay ahead of the curve.
REM: Any final thoughts?
Wah Kan: As the real estate industry continues to evolve, Realtor.ca remains committed to providing comprehensive data, embracing personalization, and maintaining the pivotal role of realtors as trusted advisors. By harnessing emerging technologies and collaborating with industry stakeholders, Realtor.ca is poised to remain a leading brand in the dynamic real estate landscape. With a focus on empowering consumers, fostering meaningful conversations, and enhancing the overall user experience, Realtor.ca is at the forefront of shaping the future of real estate search portals in Canada.
Responses have been paraphrased from my conversation with Justin Wah Kan on Jun. 28, 2023
Natalka Falcomer is a lawyer, real estate broker and Certified Leasing Officer who started her real estate career in private equity. She created, hosted and co-produced a popular legal call-in show on Rogers TV and founded and recently sold Groundworks, a firm specializing in commercial leasing law. She is currently the Chief Real Estate Officer of OJO Home Canada, leading the development and expansion of the company’s personalized home buying and selling experience for the Canadian market. She sits as a board member on The Ontario Trillium Foundation and as an advisor on NAR REACH Canada.