From the Canadian Real Estate Blog, MoveSmartly, They have a post titled “The Future of the Online Real Estate Search in Canada“.
In the USA, people interested in real estate have a ton of different websites they can use to search for houses. Pop the term into google sometime. In Canada, things are completely different. There is a single website mls.ca which holds all the MLS data and does not allow any form of third party interactions.
Housing 123 was downloading MLS information to their site allowing their users to search and browse homes on a Google map interface. MLS.ca, the real estate search site operated by CREA, does not have any mapping functionality making it difficult for users to search for homes in a particular area.
The Canadian Real Estate Association is threatening Housing123 with a lawsuit because they are syndicating the real estate market data. The interesting issue is that the mls.ca is pretty old, outdated and can’t even display houses in a map view. You still choose to look at houses based on internal region codes (how very non SOA but that’s another story).
Anyway, this opens up a very interesting issue. Why is MLS data so restricted and who is the one benefiting from this relationship?
Is it the consumers? I don’t think so, we’re being denied a better user experience. Entrepreneurial Innovations and new business models are stifled when you can’t get access to core data for an industry.
Is it the real estate companies? I don’t think so, they’d be more than happy to display all the listings and become buyers agents for the home buyer.
Is it the owners of mls.ca? Bingo. They control the data, they ensure that their site is the only one that can be used. They ensure their continued relevancy even though they can’t keep up with consumer demands on what is wanted in an online home shopping experience.
I’m a large proponent of ‘information likes to be free’. It sure does seem in this case that information about the houses on the market in canada is something that should be free to anyone to use in any way. Shame on the Canadian Real Estate Association for being so close-minded and behind the times.
Why is this relevant to the readers of this blog? Well these are the kinds of situations that are going to occur more and more as mashups and web 2.0 take off. Companies are going to have information twisted into ways they never imagined and the course of action they choose will shape both the web and the integrations of tomorrow.