Looking for a new bungalow? There’s an app for that
STEVE LADURANTAYE, GRANT ROBERTSON
Monday, Jan. 31, 2011 7:38PM EST
People shopping for new homes will have more power in their pockets this spring, as banks and real estate companies unroll a host of branded mobile applications intended to help consumers find their dream house.
Mobile apps have been slow to appear in the Canadian marketplace, as the companies that hold the data have been loath to give up control of the information needed to power them. But a ruling from Canada’s Competition Bureau that encouraged the real estate industry to throw open its multiple listings service has forced the industry to adopt new methods of fostering loyalty among the clients it depends upon for commissions.
Canada’s banks are also employing apps to ensure they are able to attract what is expected to be a smaller mortgage market as the country’s real estate market slows down from the record breaking pace of 2010.
This week, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce introduced a mobile real-estate shopping app for iPhones and BlackBerrys, jumping into that market before its competitors.Using real estate data from Toronto company Centract Settlement Services, the app streams price and demographic information on specific neighbourhoods to consumers as they are out home shopping. The data includes average home prices and price trends based on recent sales.
Such tools are the next generation of mobile banking applications that began to emerge in Canada about a year ago. Apps are the latest front in the battle for retail clients, and the strategy for CIBC is to link a potential home buyer with its mortgage advisers to arrange a loan.
The push comes as the real estate sector prepares for its spring season, traditionally the busiest of the year. Other organizations, such as the Canadian Real Estate Association, have rolled out mobile real estate apps in a bid to attract and retain customers, many of whom have been tempted to handle more of their real estate transactions on their own using online sites such as Kijiji and Craigslist.
“Nothing can replace the advice you can get from sitting across from an adviser,” said Christina Kramer, executive vice-president at CIBC. “But this kind of tool can really arm yourself with a lot of the important aspects of the decisions that you’ll need to make.”
While Centract has its deal with CIBC, it is also shopping the data that powers the app to other banks and financial companies “We have quite a number of conversations under way with organizations across Canada,” said Phil West, Centract’s general manager. “They are all interested in getting something out there in advance of the spring market.”
By offering the ability to apply for a preapproved mortgage certificate through the mobile app, CIBC hopes to hook consumers with the speed of the buying process. Most banks offer mortgage advice and approvals over the phone for such situations, but such apps put that calculation into the consumer’s hands. A meeting with a mortgage adviser is set up the same day.
“It helps you also start down the process of looking at the financial side of the equation to ensure that it’s the right kind of home at the right price level for you and that you are comfortable with the financial aspects,” Ms. Kramer said.