BUSINESS

Canadian real estate heavyweights update web technology to meet evolving needs

04/16/2013 10:16 EDT | Updated 06/16/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Royal LePage Real Estates Services came out Tuesday with a revamped property listing website that integrates new Google search features, mobile technology and data supplied through the industry's main association.

The initiative is part of a technological evolution that's giving home buyers new tools for tapping property and neighbourhood information, regardless of which devices they use or which brokerage has the property listing.

Phil Soper, Royal LePage's president and chief executive, said Tuesday he believes the revamped www.royallepage.ca is the best in the Canadian real estate industry "right now" but expects to be challenged by rivals.

"When we're designing services for market, we benchmark against our competitors and also the service offered by the Canadian Real Estate Association, Realtor.ca, and think we've clearly designed something that's superior."

Soper said he recognizes there's "no such thing" as a permanent technological edge and is already working on another generation.

In fact, one of LePage's big rivals — Re/Max — came to market earlier this year with an updated web portal giving consumers access to MLS market information by adopting the CREA's data distribution facility standard.

David Brown, executive vice-president for Re/Max in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, said he doesn't accept LePage's claim to technological superiority — even now — but added the bigger picture is a change in approach by real estate professionals.

"I think that the underlying story is that the industry is leveraging its own data smarter than it has historically," Brown said.

"We're entering an era now where we're really accommodating buyers in a much better, more sophisticated way with the tools that we're developing."

Both Re/Max and LePage use CREA's Multiple Listing Service to collect other member companies' listings information and display it through the Internet so consumers have more choice when they're searching.

"Consumers are looking to see all the listings," Brown said. "Think of yourself. You're out shopping for a property. You want to see the listings in the area of your interest and you want to see it on any device."

"I think our real success has been in mobile," Brown says. "Forty per cent of our traffic now is mobile."

He says Remax.ca's responsive design automatically detects whether the user has a tablet, smartphone or other device and optimizes the format accordingly.

RoyalLePage.ca also has mobile features but uses a different technical approach, in partnership with Plastic Mobile. It also takes a different approach to integrating Google's well-known Maps and Streetview features.

Among other things, LePage uses an experimental Google feature to display neighbourhood information such as the location of schools but Soper acknowleges it doesn't have an exclusive arrangement with the search giant.

Royal LePage provides services to about 14,000 real estate professionals in 600 locations across Canada while Re/Max has 19,900 sales associates in more than 700 independently-owned and operated offices in Canada.