MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: I Kyle Shewchuk, have been selected amongst 200 top-tier agents hand-picked to help home buyers and sellers as Rogers launches enhanced realty search site Zoocasa to feature property listings, realtor information.
Rogers Communications is set to take on Canada’s real estate industry with a dramatically revamped online and mobile search engine, Zoocasa.com, that could put more than 300,000 properties and thousands of carefully vetted agents within a quick click of consumers by summer.
“This is enormous,” says Queen’s University real estate professor John Andrew, commenting on Wednesday’s relaunch of the site which, for now, includes every property for sale across the GTA, as well as a directory of some 200 top-tier agents hand-picked to help home buyers and sellers.
As a major cable and mobile phone provider, “Rogers is a company with the financial clout and a huge customer base that a Royal LePage or ReMax would kill to have,” added Andrew.
By summer, the one-stop real estate shopping site is expected to feature links to more than 300,000 properties listed for sale on the MLS system across Canada, as well as thousands of top-producing agents selected from every major city.
“We really want to make sure that consumers get that exceptional experience,” says realtor and lawyer Lawrence Dale, group head of real estate business for Zoocasa.
“This gives consumers a much better way to connect with qualified realtors who have been vetted for their experience, their productivity and their local knowledge. They’ll know that Zoocasa stands behind each agent included in their directory and that there will be ongoing consumer support throughout any transactions.”
Dale, who has been unrelenting in his fight to bring discount and do-what-you-can-by-yourself brokerages to Canada, stresses that Zoocasa is a far cry from all that.
There will be cash and gift-card rebates from retailers such as Home Depot and Canadian Tire for both buyers and sellers — about $2,000 worth per $550,000 transaction — as well as a vast array of Rogers products and services to eventually choose from. Zoocasa will receive a portion of sales commissions.
But the primary aim of Zoocasa is to meld information and technology with customer service: buyers and sellers will be able to research and compare properties for sale via the MLS from their home computers or smartphones, then link to realtors they feel are a good fit.
Studies have shown that consumers have little loyalty to realtors and tend to find them through open houses or referrals. Zoocasa would provide a Consumer Reports approach — much like they would research the best car for your needs and price range.
“Consumers have indicated that they want to be able to research online, not just to find their next home, but also to find the right agent to help them,” says Carolyn Beatty, president of Zoocasa.
Many of the GTA’s top realtors and brokerages have signed on as partners in Zoocasa.com, which originally launched back in 2008 but, until recently, has had only limited access to MLS data guarded by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
That all changed in 2011, when Ottawa’s competition watchdog took on CREA and Canada’s largest realty association, the Toronto Real Estate Board, with the aim of opening up the MLS system so that new online companies, so-called Virtual Office Websites, could compete with traditional bricks-and-mortar realtors.
To see so many well-respected, veteran realtors working with Rogers and Zoocasa (this work will be in addition to their regular work) will no doubt come as a surprise to many in the industry.
But anyone who has ever had a problem with their cable or phone bill will be skeptical as to whether Zoocasa can pull off its customer service commitments.
“If it’s done correctly, which I believe it will be, there will be a very elite group of realtors who believe in service and quality and putting their clients before themselves,” says Pam Prescott, a realtor for decades and owner of Century 21 Heritage, whose top agents will be part of the Zoocasa roster.
The benefit to realtors is simple: leads.
Most realtors spend 70 per cent of their time looking for buyers and sellers and just 30 per cent of their time actually accessing their needs, taking them to see properties and transacting deals, says Prescott.
“It is so joyous to help somebody find their first home, to have them throw their arms around you with glee. I’d rather flip things around and spend 90 per cent of my time serving clients who are forwarded to me.”