By Geoff Kirbyson
It just got a lot easier to shop for a house without getting off the couch.
WinnipegREALTORS® has just launched a new website for its flagship publication, The Winnipeg Real Estate News. The site, winnipegrealestatenews.com, has added new functionality, including the ability to compare properties, from everything from square footage and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms to monthly tax bills and how many vehicles can fit in the garage.
“You can manage your filters. You can create a favourites page and map out the open houses of properties you like. It allows you to have many more tools at your fingertips. It deepens the weekly print edition of The Winnipeg Real Estate News,” said Christine Payne, Vice-president of Marketing, Communications and Publications at WinnipegREALTORS®.
“The philosophy around creating a new dynamic website was to give real estate search power to the consumer in the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region. We’re connecting more with our readers and helping people find the best house as quickly as they can.”
The site also enables home shoppers to use Google Maps to look at a specific street in a particular neighbourhood and see what’s for sale.
Payne is quick to note that people don’t need to worry about being called by a Realtor just for visiting the site. There is an option, however, to create an account and connect with a Realtor.
“You could look at a house, find it and buy it the same day,” Payne said.
The site was developed by Visual Lizard Inc., a Winnipeg-based web development company. CEO Julian Moffatt said the challenge was to move from a relatively static website that included a story or two from The Winnipeg Real Estate News to a dynamic one providing the tools and information that people need to buy a home.
“Your search can be very specific. You can look for houses between $300,000 and $410,000 with three bedrooms and three-car garages. People will be able to make a more informed decision about what they want to buy,” he said.
It was crucial to get the website launched prior to the busiest time of year in the housing market: spring. It was also important that the site be fully responsive on mobile devices because most people aren’t going to cart around a laptop when they’re driving around looking for schools and other amenities near the houses they like.
The previous site was not mobile friendly. The new site incorporates a responsive design that allows consumers to experience the site on their phone, iPad or desktop.” Moffatt said.
Activity on the website will generate data for Realtors, telling them which properties have been looked at and which ones have been favourited either anonymously or not, depending on the viewers’ preferences. Moffatt said once they crunch the numbers, Realtors should be able to provide a better service to the people who hire them.
Unlike many print publications, including newspapers, the paper version of The Winnipeg Real Estate News is still going strong.
“Our pick-up rate is 96 per cent. It has been a must-use publication for a very long time and it has a strong connection in the community,” Payne said.
“It’s the face of real estate in Winnipeg. There is a certain demographic that still likes their print and another that is very digitally motivated.”
The functionality of the new and improved website is a good example of what can happen with economic growth and technology, she said.
“One of the strategic objectives of WinnipegREALTORS® is to build a vibrant real estate industry. These (website) improvements support that strategic objective,” she said.