Canada's Condominium Magazine
That perennial irritant for home sellers, the real estate agent’s commission, is back in the news. As described by a new start-up company that invites homebuyers and sellers to join the real estate “revolution” and take control of the process themselves, commissions in Toronto are a “black hole” into which more than $1 billion of homeowners’ equity is lost each year. Why should this continue to happen in a world that is so connected, so willing to embrace disruptive technologies in other areas, like Uber and Airbnb? Why pay tens of thousands of dollars for realtor services when you could pay mere thousands instead? Seizin, just launched in Toronto, says it has the answers and can empower homeowners to escape that black hole and save tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It’s not the first online site for people wishing to sell their homes themselves, but it could be the one with the most impressive suite of resources for its users. It offers, for example, quite thorough guides for buyers and sellers of condominiums. The sellers’ guide gives much useful information about how to market the condo, starting with details about how to describe it as accurately as possible, how to photograph it, what to repair or replace before showing it, and much more. At each stage of the process, the guide provides links to experts who may be needed—photographers, stagers, Matterport 3D walking tour creators, home inspectors. These are paid for à la carte. Sellers wishing to look at a comparables report to help set their price must pay for that as well.
The condo buying guide explains the various costs and fees to be expected, as well as some of the programs available to help home buyers and advice on arranging a mortgage. It also explains why retaining a lawyer early on in the process is essential, listing all the functions a lawyer typically performs, from assisting with the agreement of purchase and sale (APS) to signing the closing documents. There is a helpful guide available to help set up the APS, along with a template, as well.
Trust is crucial in the online economy, especially for a multi-sided platform like Seizin. To build trust and combat fraud within our community, Seizin authenticates the identity of every user, verifies the ownership of every property and background-checks every Expert. We use official records and the same knowledge-based authentication engine used by major Canadian banks.
The founders of Seizin—the term is a medieval one denoting legal possession of land—insist that the startup is not a brokerage but a technology company, a peer-to-peer platform for real estate sales, designed to save people money. How much could you save? By its own calculations, the saving to the seller of a property at $1 million would be $56, 274, assuming the non-payment of a commission of 5 per cent. The cost saved could be even higher when calculated as a percentage of the seller’s equity in the home. Instead of paying those “staggering” costs, Seizin users would pay only to place their ad on the site ($200 for four months for the first twenty-five to sign on, then $600), plus whatever charges they chose to pay for various expert helpers and information, and a lawyer’s fees, typically $1,000–$3,000.
The company also hopes to help buyers and sellers escape the “dubious practices” of phantom offers, bidding wars and the high-pressure environment of the traditional real estate model, which it says has lost the trust of many.
Security is an obvious concern when trading in something as valuable as a house or condo, and Seizin says all financial information exchanged is protected by a high level of encryption. Individual access is by user ID and password, and the identity of all users of the site is verified by Equifax. Site users who want to access the expert service providers are subjected to a criminal record check through Sterling Backcheck Canada.
The company says it has “big plans” for the future as it adds functionality and expands its coverage (at this time there are only five properties listed on the site).