Lauren Haw is Zoocasa’s CEO and broker of record.
What is Zoocasa and what does it do?
Haw: At Zoocasa, we provide intelligent, modern real estate services through the seamless integration of technology and our full-service brokerage team. We aspire for a real estate experience that’s enhanced by technology, but grounded in human connections.
Real estate can be a complex and often emotional process. Our goal is to streamline the real estate journey for our clients, but also to create an experience that feels approachable, and where clients feel empowered, engaged and supported every step of the way. We do that by providing our clients with data and insights via our easy-to-use online research tools and then, when they’re ready, by pairing them with Zoocasa real estate agents who have the right expertise and experience for their circumstances.
What’s your sense of how the real estate market is doing in Canada?
Haw: Real estate in Canada is very local, so conditions will vary across markets. Among other factors, the current lower interest rate environment has certainly been helping more homeowners pass the mortgage stress test, which in turn means we are seeing a slight uptick in sales activity across major markets, including Calgary.
The Canadian Real Estate Association’s (CREA) most recent report for September pointed to sustained improvement in sales activity for the seventh month in a row. Sale prices across the country are generally forecast to stabilize by year-end, pending evolving trade and business investment conditions.
Immigration to Canada is definitely having a broad impact on the housing market – particularly in Canada’s tech hubs. In 2017-2018, immigration accounted for 80 per cent of Canada’s population growth according to Statistics Canada, and a majority of new permanent residents in 2017 were economic immigrants, who are likely to have the spending power to impact housing demand now and in the years to come.
Affordability as such, remains a concern for homeowners across the country, particularly in price growth markets like Toronto and Vancouver.
Why is there a trend for both buyers and sellers seeking out online research as their initial look at real estate?
Haw: At Zoocasa, we’d like to think that it’s not so much a trend, but more an evolution of the real estate industry.
Real estate has been done the same way for decades, and it’s a tried and trusted process. That being said, the industry isn’t immune to shifting consumer behaviour. The first place most people go to search for anything is Google or they pull up an app – whether it’s for the news, to find a restaurant for dinner, to review their financials and everything in between. It’s no different when it comes to finding a new home. More buyers and sellers are turning to online research very early in the process, at the stage when they aren’t practically or emotionally ready to speak to an agent and prefer anonymity.
Zoocasa offers a suite of web tools and we have an iOS app that focuses on this research phase of the consumer journey. For example, users can browse listings and buildings and filter by criteria including neighbourhood, budget, property specs, school boundaries, or amenities.
They can assess affordability and even get a sense of monthly payments, and sellers can even receive an estimated property sale price.
And once they are more comfortable and ready to move into the next phase of the renting, buying or selling process, our agents are available to guide them.
Can you give me a sense of Zoocasa’s reach in the marketplace?
Haw: We’re growing fast – in fact, just a few weeks ago, we were named one of Canada’s Top Growing Companies for 2019 by the Globe and Mail and we were the fastest growing brokerage of those that made the ranking!
Our head office is based in downtown Toronto but we have listings from across the country on zoocasa.com, so our site is accessible to essentially anyone in Canada with an Internet connection.
Currently, we have 80-plus agents helping clients in municipalities across Ontario find a new place to call home, and since we’re actively hiring, we have new agents joining our ranks nearly every week! We also have partner agents in markets across the country including Calgary and Vancouver.
What are the plans for the company?
Haw: October marks three years since we relaunched the Zoocasa website! We’re excited about the future. We continue to improve our online tools to ensure we give clients the most helpful insights.
Our team is growing rapidly, as I mentioned, and we’re looking forward to expanding our physical footprint – we are eager to continue growing in Ontario and also have our sights set on Western Canada!
Interviewed by Mario Toneguzzi, a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.