Zoocasa offers home appraisals online

Zoocasa.com has partnered with property valuation company Centract Settlement Services, to offer local market information available to anyone, anywhere, with a web connection. The website has dubbed the service as Zoopraisal, which says it offers an estimated market value for a home. The website said the price estimation it offers is a starting point to determine value, but it also encouraged buyers, sellers, and homeowners to supplement the estimate by contacting a real estate professional as well.

The model is similar to that already offered by American counterpart Zillow.com. Often valuations are significantly different than what properties are being offered for sale for.

Zoocasa was already sued by Century 21 in a case decided last month for using “spiders” to copy text and images for display on its own website, called “scraping.” Century 21 was only able to win $1,000 in damages, but claimed victory in halting the process. Rogers Communications, which owns Zoocasa, said the “scraping” had ceased in 2010.

The increasing pressure of websites taking privileged real estate information has also played out with the Competition Bureau suing the Toronto Real Estate Board for “denying consumer choice.” TREB has countered by setting up virtual offices, with password protected sites to access MLS.

The TREB has warned that if the Competition Bureau wins its suit, homeowner contact information will be accessible on the Internet, as well as details about the property ownership and contract. But while the TREB argues privacy is the issue, Competition Bureau Commissioner Melanie Aitken said such concerns are only used as a shield, whereas the more important issue is providing consumers with more options.

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