HomeZilla, a real-estate companion site, is launching publicly today. When I first saw the site back in February of this year, it still had a long way to go in terms of usability, and it looks like they have really been working hard in the time since then.
It is practically impossible to do anything worthwhile online for the real-estate market in Canada. The Multiple Listings Service is a monopoly and the ultimate gatekeeper of listings data. They protect themselves with anti-competitive contracts and stifle any sort of innovation. They regularly shut down websites and startups who come up against them. The most famous of which was the Real Estate Plus project by Bell Canada.
So, what do you do if you are passionate about this market, but can’t play fair? You go around the bullies and provide value in other ways.
HomeZilla provides neighborhood information that helps you make a decision about where you want to buy. Where are my local pubs? Schools? Child Care? LCBO? It is all in there.
The Toronto based company has a lot of work ahead of them to get exposure during a time that has seen real estate purchased drop like a rock in Toronto (down 22% to 30% by some estimates) and other cities. That said, I think HomeZilla will play an even more important role for a new type of buyer who will be a lot more picky about where they are purchasing, and they will have time to browse around, rather than bidding on every house that comes on the market.
I do not know exactly what HomeZilla’s revenue model is, but I can think of a handful of obvious opportunities to provide add-on value for real estate agents.
Personally, I think we need more startups like this, who demonstrate the possibilities of what can be done in the real estate space, and who I hope will collectively give a big middle finger to the MLS monopoly.
HomeZilla was founded by former Yahoo! manager Sandy Ward, who recently returned to Toronto from San Francisco.