web traffic as market indicator

I got this suggestion from were1non, who writes in with the following note:

I was just looking at the webtraffic statistics for mls.ca, and realtor.com to see if there was any correlation between the housing collapse and traffic to these two sites (mls.ca being the biggest listing site in Canada, and realtor.com for the US). I think this is an interesting time because this is the first time we can use web statistics to gauge interest in the housing market.

If we look at the alexa graph for realtor.com we see traffic start a steady drop in 2006, almost mirroring the US housing market slump:


Oddly enough, when you look at the traffic graph for mls.ca it does almost exactly the same thing, and as we all know there was no Canadian housing market crash in 2006:


So is it a coincidence that traffic drops off at realtor.com in 2006? Or perhaps there are competition factors at work here – my initial thought was that sites like zillow in the US and individual realtor VOW sites in Canada may have siphoned off traffic from these two main sites, but looking at a graph for zillow.com we see the same drop:


So whats happening here? Are we seeing interest in real estate fade in North America as a whole, is the traffic more evenly distributed, or are there other factors at work? One thing seems likely to me: it really is different this time – this is the first real estate boom that has played out online and no matter what happens the sheer amount of data, analysis and opinions that are out there and easily accessible is unprecedented.

update: David G from Zillow left a comment about the unreliability of Alexa data, Zillow traffic is actually up 30% over the year despite the condition of the US market.  These graphs track daily percentage reach and not absolute numbers but I still view them as an interesting proxy in the absence of more reliable web traffic data.

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We all know that prices are higher here than they were in 2006, the real question is how long is this sustainable? As you point out there has been a decline in sales at a time when they are building a record number of new condo units. Don't you think supply and demand applies here?

Up until 2005 house prices had only gone up in Miami, now they're down 20%! In Vancouver a 20% drop on the average 'starter' condo would mean a loss of around $60,000 which coincidentally is about what the average family in Vancouver earns in a year.

Or has business gotten slow because we're running out of 'greater fools' and you're just trolling for web traffic?

real estate Vancouve

Thank you for providing us with these interesting graphs. I personally do not think that it is just mere coincidence that the traffic declined. As you mentioned above, it shows us the decline in whole North America. It has to have some connection with the situation on the real estate market. Despite the fact that there was no housing crash in Canada in 2006, there is still increase in prices of real estate and decline in sales. Just look at e.g. real estate Vancouver BC and compare the prices to what they were in 2006.


gah :

"Speaking of web traffic, does anyone else hear crickets chirping when they head over to Rob Chipman’s site?

With the departure of Coco’s links, and the lack of daily stats, I’m finding less and less of a reson go over there too.

Can the last one there please turn out the lights?"

What a sad joke; he tried to get people to pay to visit his blog. I just cut and paste the stats, and supply them for free as above.

And besides there are other realtors on the net that do an excellent job of supply stats as a courtesy to potential customers.

I will definitely call Paul, if and when I decide to purchase.


Speaking of web traffic, does anyone else hear crickets chirping when they head over to Rob Chipman's site?

With the departure of Coco's links, and the lack of daily stats, I'm finding less and less of a reson go over there too.

Can the last one there please turn out the lights?


Thanks for the clarification David G. I like the way Zillow works and I would be interested in using your service if it were available in Canada. But, I and most of the others here will not be in the market for several years yet. As long as Zillow is available in Canada by 2011 I'm sure we'll be happy.

David G from Zillow.

The Pope –

I personally think mortgage applications and months of for sale inventory are the canaries in the coal-mine for a declining housing market but even there you'll find mixed signals.

We do plan on expanding Zillow internationally and Canada's definitely on the short list of places to go next. That said, I can also confirm that we're not currently working on any international sites and have a pretty full list of projects for '08; so probably not this year.


"Traffic is down for sure. Went to a couple of open houses this weekend. It was dead. No other people there. I could remember a couple of years back, you had to line up to get into the condo."

I agree with that!

Went to a place last weekend…..only 1 other family looking at the place


Traffic is down for sure. Went to a couple of open houses this weekend. It was dead. No other people there. I could remember a couple of years back, you had to line up to get into the condo.

People can argue all they want about reliability in the small scale. The fact of the matter is, there are not much buyers. Interest is low. Supply is increasing. The slope of new listing is increasing.

More supply, less demand, the conclusion is pretty simple. Price is going down.

2008 is the year for the crash of the Western Canadian Real Estate.

The faster we get this correction on it's way, the faster we could move on with our lives.


I'd need to know more about the data. Could be a change in their traffic calculation algorithm. Also likely is this is based upon "% daily reach" which assumedly has an increasing base of internet users.

Vancouver RE Crasgh

Rob Chimpman, good point, the same happened with TV business shows, the ratings plunged, after the dot.com bust.


Vancon.info has hit the bigtime! You got David G's attention. Congrats! This is a very interesting post however I have to side with DG's counter regarding the reliability of Alexa. Google "Alexa Reliability" and you'll see most discount this metric. I'm one of those VOW people providing traffic competition to the MLS and I can tell you that my site's traffic has grown ever since I put VOW on. Another good post was made on another real estate blog that as local boards improve there own local search they will attract more unique visitors who would have otherwise gone for a national search (MLS.ca, Realtor.com). It turns out that real estate (search and information) really is local. My AgentWill.com site has already surpassed my old imhome.ca site and I attribute that to the increasing amount of local information which many… Read more »


"Are there other sites that would make for a better comparison".

Yes there are developers sites, craigslist, and individual realtors,Most of Canadian boom is new constructed homes or currently under construction those does not appear on mls,those are only available on developers site or in the media,news papers etc.

buyers and sellers who does googles and yahoo can reach on realtors site rather than mls.

people in the surrounding area can directly reach to open houses.

David G from Zillow.

There are more definitive measures of the reduced interest in housing; sales volumes, home values, for sale inventory, forclosure inventory are all better places to look than web traffic. They all say the same thing; much of the demand for housing has disappeared. Even when using web metrics, I personally prefer a google trends review of the category's important keywords than studying traffic to a few sites in the sector. Alexa is interesting but it's totally unreliable and is therefore best used in conjunction with the other free tools, like compete. The alexa reach metric you quote here is in fact a fraction of total internet reach so even if it were accurate, it's skewed by the relative popularity of every other site on the web. Zillow is a good example; our sites reach is in fact up 30% when… Read more »


Good point jadeeast, I just checked a few sites off the top of my head and they don't seem to follow the same pattern.

Here's googles traffic

Here's the youtube graph

Are there other sites that would make for a better comparison?

Rob Chimpman

Sorry that's ^ me Rob Chimpman.


There is research out there on this phenomenon from the Dot Com crash. All kinds of finance websites went under since no one wants to check on their stocks when they're losing money every day. I think the Economist did a big piece on it circa 2001.


The y axis is labeled as daily reach and seems to be in percent. I'm not

that well versed in stats but is this would seem to be an possibly inaccurate

way to measure interest. With the exponential expansion of net users and websites wouldn't this be skewed over time?

Maybe check out some websites completely unrelated to housing and see what

the same time frame tells you, maybe nothing.


That is pretty comelling evidence of a downturn. I wonder if you could do the same thing for websites like Stockhouse pre/post dot-com crash? I realize there would be issues since it was just a certain sector that suffered, and not stocks in general, but it may support the general thesis.

Nonetheless, very interesting post.


Very interesting post. I clearly points to a lack of interest compared with years prior. All the charts are saying the same thing.