Lauren Haw: CEO of Zoocasa on Making the Right Real Estate Purchase

Lauren Haw is a real estate professional with a multi-faceted understanding of the industry. Having started by investing in the brokerage company True North Mortgage in 2008 and successfully growing it from Alberta to Ontario, Haw then launched the spinoff website Ratehub.ca. In 2012, she then earned her real estate licence and sold properties for RE/MAX and Keller Williams.

When Rogers Communications put discount real estate brokerage Zoocasa.com up for sale in 2015, Haw was perfectly poised to buy and develop the company into what it is today. In 2021, Zoocasa was named in The Globe and Mail‘s ranking of Canada’s Top Growing Companies for a third year in a row.

What is something that technology cannot replace in the process of buying and selling properties?

Automated valuation models (AVMs) are all over real estate, and a lot of people on the outside of the industry think, “If I can just create the best AVM and just tell somebody what a house is worth, then we won’t need agents anymore.” But the reality is that isn’t true because what agents actually do is help somebody work through all of the variables in their life to make the best decision for them.

What a house is “worth” — compared to another house — is really only [based on] one factor: whether or not it’s the right decision for a person or a family to make at the time. Even if a house is worth “X” dollars, it doesn’t mean you can just write an offer and get that. You have to have relationships with other agents and sellers to be able to acquire that property for clients.

It’s such a big financial decision that a lot of people come into with fear. It’s so exciting to start looking for new homes; but when you have to make a multi-million-dollar decision, I find that clients really want to lean on the empathy, compassion, and competence that an actual human can give them in terms of advice. It takes a combination of therapist, financial advisor, problem solver, and negotiator to get it done. 

On the flip side, what are the ways in which technology has vastly impacted and improved the industry?

Some of it is just making it easier. On the agent side of things, making it easier for agents to communicate with each other, book showings, do viewings, and stay organized in that way. It’s taking away some of the manual administration. For the clients and the online users, I think it allows them to do some research and digging prior to jumping into the market. Generally, buyers are coming in with a better knowledge of, “Oh, this price isn’t the sale price, right?” Or coming in with an understanding of what prices are in any given market.

It’s interesting because in the last couple of years, we’ve seen a big growth in off-market and exclusive chats. I’ve seen NARS — the National Association of Realtors — going after exclusive or pocket listings in certain states. And in Canada, we’re starting to see a real growth of Facebook groups and other groups that are realtor-to-realtor to share exclusive listings.

Do you have any advice for people looking to invest in real estate in the current climate?

I’ve personally always believed in the long-term. Buy and hold. Do things that make sense long-term. The churning of real estate can be very time-consuming. 

Truly, you are usually better off getting yourself into a financially sound, long-term scenario. That said, in the last 20 years, you could churn as much as you want, and in almost any case you would’ve done very well and looked like a genius. But when you look at the family dynasties that have hundreds of millions and billions of dollars in real estate, they’re long-term land bankers for the most part. Apply that way of buy-and-hold, even if you’re just getting started.

Rose Ho | Assistant Editor



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