By John Sturrup

Hot on the heals of the recent launch of the Toronto Star’s real estate site (StarRealEstate.ca), Trader Corporation has made an impressive foray into the Canadian online real estate market with the beta launch of HomeTrader.ca site.

And this despite a slumping real estate market that saw home sales plummet in the Toronto area alone by 50 percent in November over the same month last year, according to a report from the Toronto and District Real Estate Board.

Even so, the real estate world keeps turning and sites need to persevere with developing technologies.

But unlike StarRealEstate and other major real estate players, such as Realtor.ca (formerly MLS.ca), Trader isn’t putting all its eggs into the home-resale basket. In fact, the site currently lists only rentals, new homes and condominiums and won’t be populating the site with resale homes until later this year.

The business model for the site was built around current real estate properties Trader has in Quebec (Visite.net), Ontario (HomeGuides.ca) and Western Canada (HomeBase.ca). “We had a number of different brands and this is a new direction in creating one national brand and ultimately one destination for finding a place to live,” said Gloria Roknic, director of marketing – real estate, for Trader Corporation.

“Ultimately, the vision is to create a destination where people can find a place to live whether it’s a rental property, new construction, resale or recreational property it will all be that one place they think of – HomeTrader.ca – to find out all of that information.”

While adding resale recreational and commercial property is part of the overall plans, the initial site features only its rentals, condos and new homes.
 
 At first glance it appears Trader has put together an easy-to-use comprehensive package of bells and whistles that makes it simple, not only to search and navigate online properties, but also allows you to check out amenities such as schools, shopping and recreational facilities close to the property through a sharing arrangement with YellowPages.ca. “What happens is that when you drill down to the exact property you are looking for, it populates those key amenities from the yellow-pages directory showing the amenities and businesses in the area; seeing all the parks schools, shops and services near each home listing.”

The first thing you notice on the home page is the map that automatically zeros in on your neighborhood. Based on a grid system, you will see the number of properties that are available in that neighborhood. Click on the property list and that will narrow your search further revealing pins that represent the individual listings. You are then given the option to view your property in picture view, list view or map view.

So, is Trader in direct competition with some of the other online real estate players in Canada? Roknic doesn’t think so. “Because our ultimate goal is to have one destination for all different types of properties sets us apart. … I think when you go to some of those other sites they have bits and pieces of it, but no one really offers that complete experience like HomeTrader.ca.” she said.

It’s not just about the listings, either says Roknic. “I think some of the later phases will include more tools and more information, again to help you through that process of looking for a place to live. Currently, we have a strong rental and new home publications across the country, so we have different sort of packages and bundles for existing advertisers so when they are purchasing print there is a component now that is included for the online exposure.”

Trader is packaging its site to be more than print and online service.  “It’s not just a media exposure through our print and online piece, it’s also the servicing piece which is the back-end tools the site provides for property managers or new home developers. It’s about being able to set up the show rooms, being able to adapt their information in real time,” she said. “It’s also about accessing all the back-end reporting where clients are able to see all of the leads that you’ve received from the site and being able to get more information about the users.”

HomeTrader.ca is in beta form now and is looking to go full throttle this quarter, at which time it will start removing its existing sites.

“We see this as a continuing evolution,” Roknic said. “This the first phase and we will continue to enhance the user experience, the tools that are offered and build more of the editorial components and other content. It will be a continuous progression.”

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