Tech companies offer new ways to buy, sell homes in Edmonton

Technology is giving Edmonton homeowners more options when it comes to selling their home on the cheap.

How the tech industry is changing the role of real estate agents in Edmonton

A "for sale" sign.
Three tech companies say owners want to be able to list their own homes and have their realtors commission fees reduced. (Robson Fletcher/CBC)

Technology is giving Edmonton homeowners more options when it comes to selling their home on the cheap.

This year real estate tech companies — Bode and Honest Door — have launched in Edmonton, while a third company, Purplebricks, formerly Comfree, says its market in Edmonton is growing. 

The companies have one thing in common: they allow sellers to list their own homes with a reduced commission fee or no commission fee at all.

"We've become really used to and value the tech-based experience, the digital experience in transportation, hospitality, travel, banking, the ability to sell your cars and and your possessions," said Robert Price, CEO and founder of Bode Canada. 

Familiar technology

"So this is really taking that content out of what's now become familiar and valued in the rest of our lives and applying it to your home," Price said.

Bode Canada launched in Edmonton on Oct. 16. The company allows owners to list their own homes on their website and 20 other real estates sites such as Zillow.com and Realtor.com at no charge. 

Owners set up their own showings and when the home sells Bode gets a one-per-cent commission fee.

While no listings or transactions have been made so far in Edmonton, six properties in Calgary have sold through the site, Price said, declining to add how many registered users are on the site in Alberta beyond "hundreds."

Bode Canada launched in Edmonton last month. If an owner is able to make a sale on their website, the company gets one per cent in commission fees. (Courtesy of Bode Canada)

Purplebricks operates a similar business model. The company bought Comfree in July 2018, re-branding in January. 

For $800 sellers list their home on Purplebricks. The fee includes help in taking photographs and setting the price. For additional fees, the seller can choose to have a realtor organize showings.  

Kim Ewchuk, Western Canada general manager, says Purplebricks gets about 2,000 listings in Alberta each year, with 75 per cent of their business coming out of Edmonton. 

Since Purplebricks relaunched in January, it's seen a 22-per-cent rise in sales in the city, Ewchuk said. 

While Realtor.ca currently has more than 5,600 listings in Edmonton, Purplebricks has about 400 on its site.

"We consider ourselves to be a discount brokerage," she said. "How we're able to do so is by offering our services at a flat fee model, as opposed to looking at a percentage on the value of a home." 

Adel Elseri, 33, said he saved thousands of dollars in commission fees when he listed his home on Purplebricks in February. 

"It's one of the best experiences I've ever had," he said. 

Elseri said he and his wife had about 20 showings and sold their home within 28 days for the asking price of $465,000. 

"I feel like ... it was in our own control to really show off our house the way we see our house, instead of someone who actually doesn't live in the area," Elseri said. 

Changes to Honest Door 

While Bode and Purplebricks are still registered and regulated as licensed brokerages in Alberta, Honest Door is not.

Honest Door, which launched in June, amasses real estate data in Alberta, giving buyers and sellers information on sold prices, property history, and future growth projections on any and every property.

Founder Dan Belostotsky said users often asked if they can list their property on Honest Door. He is now adding a listing option on the website, to be ready by the end of the year or early 2020. 

"At first, we wanted people to take the data into their own hands and really give them an opportunity to do their own research.

"Once they did that, all the comments we've received was like, 'Hey we'd like to now list on a web site'  and there wasn't any available website for them to do that," he said. 

He said the company might charge people a listing fee of $50 upfront, but no commission fee. 

Significant savings 

Edmonton real estate agent Ben Oosterveld says typically an agent charges a seven-per-cent commission on the first $100,000 and three per cent on the balance. 

Oosterveld said that's a lot money, leading clients to expect more from agents than they sometimes get.

"That's why those other companies exist," he said. "It's because the value that most, or a lot of people, get from agents are just too low for the price." 

Oosterveld said he provides written feedback reports to clients, outlining why interested buyers didn't put in offers for their homes and what steps need to be taken to get the sale.

"That's called value, but a lot of agents don't do anything like that. There's a showing, but you don't get feedback, so why pay?" 

And when a sale is made?

"When you get keys to the house that you bought from our team we literally roll out a red carpet. We bring champagne we make it a really big deal."