While REALTOR.ca is the Canadian Real Estate Association’s website linking MLS® listings across the nation, Winnipeggers and Manitobans in surrounding rural municipalities are fortunate to have a top-notch local REALTOR® website available to them at winnipegrealtors.ca or winnipegrealestatenews.com.
Ed Pearce, a website publisher from Toronto, and his wife are looking to relocate to another city as part of their retirement plans. Winnipeg is one of the cities under serious consideration, but they are also checking out other cities in Ontario, B.C. and the Maritimes.
Two things Pearce appreciates about the local website is its ease of navigation for finding houses in a specific area of Winnipeg and the detailed descriptions of individual homes. He found it extremely helpful to learn about property taxes, the age of the home and other information REALTORS® like to promote in their remarks, such as what renovations were recently done, school proximity, golf courses and other community amenities.
For all of the searches on a myriad of websites, the WinnipegREALTORS® website in his view really stood out.
“Your website is one of the best real estate sites I have come across in the country,” he said.
Another advantage is that new listings are immediately uploaded to the website and once activated remain active on the site until sold. There are never any delays or deadlines to meet in getting them on the website.
Thumbnail links are available to REALTOR®’s personal/company websites which promote all of their listings/information.
There are also real estate articles which often give local market updates on present conditions, including the weather and real estate changes.
Enhancing the search
Every month, nearly three-million visitors log onto Canada’s on-line real estate destination, REALTOR.ca. If you haven’t taken a look at REALTOR.ca lately, you just might want to. A number of enhancements have been appearing on the site and will continue over the course of the next year.
“These enhancements are the combination of a recent usability study, and enhancement requests gathered through CREA’s helpdesk, board/association requests and CREA staff research,” said Marc Lafrance, CREA’s director of marketing and member services.
CREA began enhancing REALTOR.ca at the start of the summer with the latest version released in mid-September. In that version, changes were made to the home page, where radio buttons replaced the “Looking For” dropdown.
“This feature will now help users to understand that there are more options to look for, like land and agriculture rather than just residential which was the default,” said Lafrance.
As part of this change, CREA also added a radio button for users to select “Condo/Strata” rather than selecting the appropriate ownership type to find these properties.
On both the home page and the map search, there is now the ability to look for properties based on the date that they were first uploaded to REALTOR.ca. This is the new listing search and will allow the user to select a date and see properties that have been uploaded on a previous date. Also on the map search page, the search for the open house feature has been made more prominent as was done on the home page.
In previous versions of REALTOR.ca, users could only send an e-mail with no text to a listing agent. Now, if users want to be able to say something to the property’s REALTOR®, they can now include free text with their checkbox selection.
More changes are on the way before Christmas and right through to spring 2010. In these versions, users can expect to see the ability to compare properties and create a “favourites” page, the use of a polygon on the search map, points of interest (churches, schools) plotted on the map, area demographics, property floor plans and an interactive search.
Relief is also on the way for users frustrated with searches that produce more than 500 results. CREA will be removing this error message from the site and giving users the opportunity to see 50 properties at a time, regardless of what’s returned. For example, a user could search the entire database, get over 2,000 listings and REALTOR.ca will show 50 at a time.
REALTOR.ca will also be going mobile sometime this fall. For Blackberry and iPhone users, REALTOR.ca will be accessible through a separate URL and available to anyone with a hand-held device.
“It’s essentially everything that’s available on the main site (with the exception of mapping), in a stripped down mobile-text version,” said Lafrance.
Interactive mapping is a large part of what REALTOR.ca is all about. When prospective homebuyers search for a property on the site, they are able to do so thanks to the interactive map infrastructure created by Microsoft called Bing Maps. While the technology behind the infrastructure may have its shortcomings, (it is especially problematic for large rural areas and new subdivisions), it is the tool of choice for most MLS® services.
Microsoft has indicated to CREA their willingness to make changes and upgrade their maps, but said that they are at the mercy of their data supplier who provides regular updates right around the world, throughout the year. It should be noted that in order to help facilitate map requests, Microsoft has worked out a one-of-a-kind arrangement with their data provider that gives CREA requests priority.
In addition to the current interactive mapping capabilities, CREA will be introducing Bing Maps bird’s-eye view to maps on REALTOR.ca before the end of the year. This enhancement will give users a better visual representation of the actual neighbourhood by zooming right down to the properties.