Photo by ettml from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
Although Torontoist has always been known for its sunny disposition and positive outlook on life, we have on a few occasions been less than effusive in our praise of the de facto real estate web search king, mls.ca. A poor (very, very poor) search function, crappy pictures (when available), and often useless information (telling us a property is in “C03″ doesn’t narrow it down very much) makes the MLS site a drag to spend any time on.
There have been a few pretenders to the real estate searching throne, but despite markedly better layouts and search functionality, the biggest hindrance to these alternatives to the MLS juggernaut has been inconsistent content. What’s the point of searching on a great site if all of the properties you want are on MLS? It’s enough to make the average user
take action sigh and resign themselves to the status quo.
The search map function on the new Realtor.ca website.
We thought we found a winner when we told you about one of the best alternatives to MLS, Housing123.com, who ingeniously plotted MLS listings to a Google Map and linked to the corresponding MLS listing. Unfortunately, MLS got wind of their shenanigans and threatened legal action, effectively shutting them down. (Housing 123 may not be dead yet, however—their blog says they’re considering continuing as a service for private listings.) The good news is that the MLS folks have kindly provided an alternative.
Originally scheduled to launch on May 28, the new Realtor.ca site—officially open for business on July 2, 2008—may be the answer to every house-hunter’s prayers. For real this time. The new site has the one thing every MLS user has been clamoring for, namely: listings plotted to a map. You can also use the text search to type the location you’re thinking of, although the results are a bit finicky at this point. If you’ve got an MLS number in hand, you’re always able to plug it in to the text box on top of the home page as well.
As you can see, the new search function is vastly superior to the previous mls.ca incarnation (right). It’s not perfect, though. If you want to use the map you have to start with all of Ontario and gradually work/scroll your way down to the area you’re actually interested in. Once you find a place you think you might like, one click will take you to the stand-alone page for the property. The amount of information available once you get to the individual property page doesn’t differ much from the standard page on the current MLS site, which is replete mediocre pictures (where available) and jargon-y realtor speak.
The original MLS site is still online, although a notice posted on their site (and subsequently taken down) indicated that users would be routed to the new Realtor.ca site once it was operational. It’s not happening yet, but we imagine property hunters will start being automatically redirected to the new site soon. Although we haven’t had a lot of time to play around with it, we’re cautiously optimistic that you’ll still find the Realtor.ca site an improvement to mls.ca…in fact, we’d probably recommend using it even if it weren’t the only game in town. Which it is.