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 »