Here’s What We Know About Zillow’s Expansion Into Canada So Far

(Photo courtesy of freeimage4life via Flickr)

Zillow has firmed up Canadian expansion plans, but what does this mean for local real estate?

About eight months after U.S. real estate website Zillow first revealed it was considering adding Canadian listings to its online portal, the company confirmed last week that it was moving forward with the plan.

On June 6, Zillow announced it was partnering with Century 21 and would be linked up to a direct feed of the brokerage’s Canadian listings to feed to U.S. home hunters. The two already have a similar partnership stateside.

The first listings are slated to appear on Zillow later this year, but the company says in a statement sent to Toronto Storeys that “we do not have a specific date to share right now.”

The launch date is not the only unknown.

What kind of an effect will Zillow’s arrival have on the Toronto and broader housing market?

Toronto broker Ara Mamourian, a partner at property.ca, suggests the expansion won’t amount to much — at least at first.

“Zillow’s fairly unknown here in Toronto and Canada in general, so I think for now it won’t have much of an impact on our market,” Mamourian tells Toronto Storeys.

Mamourian sees Zillow’s Canadian push as a way of testing the waters, and he expects they will roll out other services similar to those offered in the states in the future.

Zillow sells leads to agents in the U.S., for example, and Mamourian says he’s interested in such an opportunity in his local market should it arise.

“Every agent should probably look at that as an opportunity to grow,” says Mamourian, who has long used digital-marketing strategies.

“Zillow has the budget and the ability to get a lot of attention, so you can either hate that or you can leverage that to be more successful in your business.”

Currently, Zillow is looking to join forces with other partners to increase the number of Canadian listings that will appear on its site.

“We’ve [been] meeting with several MLSs, franchisors and brokerages within Canada to bring Canadian listings to Zillow and help increase exposure to their listings to the millions of shoppers that come to Zillow every month,” reads the statement Zillow sent to Toronto Storeys.

Zillow says the decision to look to the north is rooted in the interest Americans have in Canadian real estate.

“We know U.S. buyers are interested in purchasing Canadian property.

“We think adding Canadian listings to Zillow would be of interest to U.S. buyers, and would help increase exposure to Canadian homes for sale — benefiting both home sellers and industry professionals,” Zillow adds in the statement.

Zillow attributes the interest to a few factors: Canada’s proximity to the U.S., demand for vacation homes, and investment opportunities.

Together Zillow and its other brands, including Trulia, StreetEasy, HotPads, Naked Apartments, RealEstate.com and Out East, racked up an average of more than 175 million monthly users in Q1 across websites and apps.

For its listings south of the border, Zillow displays previous sale prices obtained from third-party data providers.

The public release of sales information such as that has been at the core of a lengthy legal battle between the Toronto Real Estate Board and the Competition Bureau, a federal institution acting as an independent law-enforcement agency.

Toronto Storeys contacted TREB for comment on the Zillow announcement, and the board declined to weigh in.

“TREB does not get involved in discussions about the types of business models or marketing strategies which REALTORS employ to aid in their efforts of trading in real estate,” reads TREB’s official position statement.

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