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Comparing MLS.ca to a Porn Site

We found this interesting article online comparing MLS to Porn... quite interesting so have a read!

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It's fun. It's addictive. It's that favorite on your toolbar that says mls.ca . It's real-estate porn. And it loves you back, baby.

It's the daydream of a cliff-side oceanfront home in West Van, or a validation that your small bungalow looks much better than those boxy Vancouver specials. It's a chance to snoop at other people's mysterious decor choices – what's with that flower-wallpaper border in kitchens or the lime-green paint, anyhow? – and it's also a practical way to check the market. It's a mental escape that, taken to the next level, can change your life. Or change your level of frustration.

It offers a sweet ride for the user – and nobody gets hurt. No animals are harmed in the listings process; no underage kids are exploited. It's all the great stuff about capitalism and greed – yet it's free.

The bonus is not having to go to open houses that are always scheduled on weekends right when you do your grocery and liquor-store run. Surfing saves you from having to fake your name and state your reasons for being a looky-loo in the first place, and having to take off your shoes at the door and never feeling sure they'll be there when you finish the tour.

It's anonymous. It's voyeurism at its finest because it's socially acceptable. Mostly.

You can look in any neighborhood, in any province or territory. Dissatisfied with the explosive market in the Lower Mainland, one woman started checking out vacation properties in Nova Scotia. Cheap, cheap, cheap. If you're house-poor in B.C., there's always another spot to fulfill your urges. And if you're bored just looking, you can even use it to buy a place.

Carole is a 42-year-old self-employed clothing designer. She and her husband, Graham, a consultant, were living in the U.S. when her husband spotted a listing on mls.ca . "He caught it from me," Carole says with a laugh. "I used to send him links to houses for sale and I noticed that he would occasionally send me listings and I thought, 'Aha! He's doing it, too.'"

You'd think they'd pool their surfing abilities. Apparently not. He found the place, then had a chance to view it while in Vancouver on business. "He faxed me the floor plan and I looked at some pictures – and we bought it," Carole says.

Real names are not being used in this article, nor are other specifics, such as prices, in order to dance around these people's identities. Let's face it, being addicted to MLS® surfing ranks right up there with cross-dressing, dog-beating, or a penchant for hideously ugly lawn decorations. We're not attempting to explain it – we're just letting you know it's there. Near you. Probably closer than you think. Probably your neighbor's wife is doing it right now.

So, within a couple of years, Carole and Graham grew frustrated with their small downtown apartment. Hosting dinner parties just wasn't the same with people balancing plates on their laps and avoiding each other's elbows. The surfing began in earnest. "I surfed mls.ca religiously every day for several months," says Carole. "You look above your price range because you start to get carried away."

And they found a condo-loft in Gastown – a very cool, exposed-brick and skyscraper-ceilinged place with swishy black appliances and gobs of windows – even a small ocean view. So they bought the lofty condo, sold the downtown condo and moved. And lived happily ever after.

Such naïveté.

Of course she was back on her keyboard. "If I feel dissatisfied or vaguely discontented, I surf around," says Carole. "It starts as something engaging to do and turns into something else," she says. "It can be a vague sense of missing the boat, or lacking excitement, or wanting to stir things up."

It's also a diversion, a stress-buster and a quick hit of therapy. "It's a lot more immediate," Carole explains. "There are all these potential lives out there. You just have to be bored and perhaps see a listing for a house on Indian Arm and visualize yourself with a speedboat and a different lifestyle.

"It feeds your curiosity. You look at pictures and see how much other people have paid, how other people decorate."

Instant escapism.

Which may explain why it's dubbed "mls-porn”. The name is catchy, it sounds bad-ass. It's sort of like going without underwear: It's perfectly legal, it's hugely popular – but lots of people are just creeped out by it. If all those home-decorating magazines are soft porn, then this is hard-core.

"It's definitely like porn," says Carole. "It's stimulating, it feeds a desire and can be addictive. The downside is it can make you feel dissatisfied with what you have."

Elaine, a 33-year-old accountant, is another mls.ca groupie who's trying to find recreational property within a three-hour drive of the Vancouver area. “I found this one-acre waterfront lot for $20,000," Elaine says. “It looked like it was in the Fraser Valley – turns out it's farther north."

That's what happens when you're addicted to the smack: You click onto areas quickly and, in a flash, you are miles from your original destination. Elaine had already started booking a place to stay to check out the property when she discovered the lot was at Stuart Lake, which is north of Prince George. She might as well have been looking in Nova Scotia.

So back to the web site, where Elaine surfs most lunch hours in the tax off-season. Like a lot of men, her husband is familiar with the web site but it's the women who rule. "I've used it off and on for about five years. At first, we used it for looking for a house," Elaine says. "We noticed a neighbor's place up for sale so we checked out what they were asking. We're like Peeping Toms," she says, adding that it's a strange sensation – but "you do it like it's just completely normal to be snooping in your neighbor's house on MLS®."

The beauty of online anonymity.

Fast-forward to this summer and Carole and her husband are still trying to figure out what the formula is for their perfect home. Sometimes it's a circuitous route. Carole was looking at the Sunshine Coast. Then she looked at Bowen Island. She and her husband even paid a visit to Bowen but decided they could never morph into the "We live on Bowen" types.

Carole's husband was surfing in a choice neighborhood in the Vancouver area that they'd never before considered. And there it was: a gorgeous wood home with big decks, several levels, lots of glass, a big forested lot and an adorably overgrown garden that shielded the house from the road. Oh, and it was spitting distance from the ocean.

Within two days they had bought it. Sometimes it is possible to operate under the radar in this frantic West Coast market. It's unbelievable there were no offers on this place because they got it for, basically, a little more than lot value.

See? Surfing mls.ca is good for you.

"When we were buying this new place, I looked at the past two years' worth of 'solds' in the area and I felt kind of choked…I asked myself, 'What if they were better than what we just got?'" says Carole. "I had one day of panic so I felt compelled to check what that money would have bought in other areas," she says, adding that she went right back on mls.ca , just to see. "And then I stopped myself. I shut it down."

Carole and Graham have sold the Gastown condo. So – after the coup but before the stress of an upcoming move – what's she going to do when she needs a break from packing?

"After we move, I'm going to try not to look online," she says. "But I'm not going to make any promises."

Help for mls.ca surfers battling their sickness:

•  You are not alone. You and 54 per cent of Canadians surf mls.ca . The No. 2 reason most Canadian adults have an Internet connection in the first place is to aid in buying a home. Of note, 85 per cent of online home buyers use the Internet to help them in the purchase and 78 per cent say it played a significant role in the purchase of a home. (The No. 1 reason to hook up with the Internet is to do online banking; No. 3 reason is to job-search.)

•  You can start a support group: the number of Canadians researching real estate listings has doubled in the past four years.

Source: Ipsos Reid surveys 1998, 2000 and 2004

Posted on Friday, June 1, 2007 at 12:47AM by Registered CommenterElaine in | CommentsPost a Comment

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