Website helps you pick where to live in Canada

Shopping for a neighbourhood is long overdue, but the website still has a few kinks to sort out

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(Getty Images / kevinjeon00)

(Getty Images / kevinjeon00)

If you’re looking to buy or rent in a major city in Canada, then check out Navut.com.

“It’s a home-search process in reverse,” explains website founder Mauro Repacci. By describing what you want in a neighbourhoods—using the websites five criteria—Navut then sorts through data to list the top five communities that will suit your needs. Take for example, the data for Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood: it has a safety score of 62%, it’s got a walkability score of 88%,  9.3% of homes are newly built while the average household annual income is over $114,000. Included in the community’s profile are the top occupations of its residents (management, business & finance, and government), the local unemployment rate (7.3%), percentage of university degree holders (66.9%), the main cultural groups in the area and the ratio of immigrants to non-immigrants. Navut.com, then, offers a comprehensive snapshot of all the neighbourhoods in one of seven big cities in Canada, and could easily be an effective tool for new Canadians, or people moving to another city or province. In this respect, I’d say the concept is fabulous: Take all the scattered data available in the public domain—such as Walkability Score, school rankings, crime rates, etc.—load the data into a computer and develop a formula that allows you to rank and sort based on preferences. But this is where the execution doesn’t quite live up to its promise. It’s the ranking I have difficulty with. I spoke to Repacci earlier this year to ask him about the methodology behind the Navut’s ranking—no methodology is listed on the website—and while he was forthcoming to me on the phone, the information wasn’t for public consumption. “It’s proprietary,” explains Repacci. And he has a right to feel protective of his four years of hard work, as he’s already seen competition from other websites. But the problem I have is that the rankings end up spitting out the same few neighbourhoods, regardless of how you change your criteria, because these are the neighbourhoods that dominate statistics. For instance, when I ranked good schools as one of my criteria in Toronto, I get a list of neighbourhoods based on the top five schools, as ranked by the Fraser Institute. (The Fraser Institute releases a school ranking of select Canadian cities that attempts to quantify the quality and then rank that quality for almost all public and Catholic schools from elementary to high school.) Now, if you live in one of the cities that has these school rankings, you’ll also know that the top five schools on this list are usually located in some of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the city. To me this is a big problem. If I were new to Canada or a Canadian city and I wanted to buy, this ranking could prompt me to purchase in a neighbourhood where the homes are priced well-above the city’s average house cost—and I’d miss out on neighbourhoods that are more reasonably priced, and with great schools (that don’t make it in the top 10, but do rank in the top 100 out of 2,000+ schools). This is not criticize Navut.com—I think it’s a concept well overdue, particularly for new immigrants who may not have any friends or family to help them negotiate all the life-changing decisions they need to make upon moving to Canada. I just think the proprietary formula for the site’s ranking process needs to be tweaked a bit more. Perhaps when this is done, Navut.com will become one of the most sought-after tools in the home buying (and renting) process. Read more from Romana King at Home Owner on Facebook »

2 comments on “Website helps you pick where to live in Canada

  1. Greetings,

    I am Head of Sales & Marketing for Navut and one of the Co-founders of the website.

    First of all, I would like to thank Romana King for the article. It certainly points out some key advantages of using Navut to identify the ideal neighborhood and find the most appropriate home.

    I understand the concern about the accuracy of our main tool, the Neighborhood Finder. However, it seems that there is a misunderstanding on how it should be used and I would like to take this opportunity to better explain it to the readers.
    If one searches using only the two criteria used (as described in the article), School Quality and Ideal Home, here are some of the of searches and results possible:

    A – If School Quality is the only thing that matters to the family (this is rarely true in reality), by choosing for example, to live in the neighborhoods with the best public English schools in Toronto, you will get the following results:
    1- Willowdale East
    2- Bayview Village
    3- Thorncliffe Park
    4- Don Valley Village
    5- Milne Dam_Rouge Valley Park

    We understand that these areas may not be the most affordable, but the prices of homes are not an important criterion for the family that does this search.

    B – If School Quality is an important criterion for the family but they also have a limited budget for housing. Let’s say this family has around 400 000 CAD to buy an apartment /condo. In this case, here are the results:
    1- Bayview Village
    2- Thorncliffe Park
    3- Willowdale East
    4- Pleasant View
    5- Milliken

    We observe a considerable change in the ranking. We see 2 new neighborhoods appearing in the list and the 3 repeated ones appearing in different positions.

    These are the neighborhoods that combine both the best public English schools and the budget factor, rather than the school factor alone.

    C- If you have kids, School Quality is always an important criterion (regardless of the price of the home that you can afford). So let’s keep looking for neighborhoods with the best public English schools but where the family can buy an apartment for only 200 000 CAD. In this case, here are the results they would get in Navut’s Neighborhood Finder:

    1- Thorncliffe Park
    2- Steeles
    3- Snelgrove
    4- Agincourt South
    5- Castlemore

    We have now 4 new Neighborhoods in the ranking and Thorncliffe Park is ranked #1.

    An interesting fact that we can observe is the Thorncliffe Park appears in the 3 searches and always among the top 3. We can also observe that the lower the budget of the family buying a home, the higher this neighborhood is ranked.

    As mentioned previously, searches using only one criterion are rare and do not reflect the behaviour of someone moving to a new city. Combining these 2 criteria will give our users a very good and precise idea of the areas where they should live if the quality of schools is very important for them and if they have limited budgets for their housing.

    Navut is a very young site with limited resources and we surely still need to make many improvements on it. However, we have always been recognized for the precision, reliability and usefulness of the results provided by the Neighborhood Finder.

    We listen carefully to the feedback we receive and keep adapting our service as much as possible, according thereto. We surely welcome your feedback as well, and invite everyone to visit http://www.navut.com and to communicate with us for additional information on how to maximize their search experience, should it be required.

    Reply

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