A new Canadian commercial real estate listing service, named “Bee Commercial”, aims to become the go-to site for commercial real estate in Canada.
Scheduled for an end of January launch, Bee Commercial is the brainchild of Montreal-based JLR, a reference for land registry data in Quebec that is similar to Ontario’s Teranet.
Founded in 1986, 50-employee JLR has more than 15,000 users, including real estate professionals, financial institutions, insurers and government agencies. It compiles and analyzes real estate transactions in Quebec, municipal assessment rolls, construction permits and census data. JLR also regularly publishes statistics on bad debt trends in Quebec.
Bee Commercial is being launched to meet industry demand, says JLR president and CEO Félix Laroche, who is the son of JLR founder Jacques Laroche.
“We saw that various real estate boards in Canada had a need and that there was no Canadian product that provided this type of research.”
The commercial listing service will be offered to real estate boards across Canada.
Bee Commercial is a word play on the term “busy bee.” It will contain public access for investors looking to buy or lease commercial properties in Canada and a number of search filters. For brokers, the service will offer listing data input, advanced search with personalized fields, a micro-website for listings, the ability to create and print flyers and more.
“You can add photos, documents, information about the seller – all the information you can find on the MLS system,” Laroche says. “We did not reinvent the wheel with this.”
Real estate boards will also be able to integrate and personalize the search engine tools within their own sites. “There are features we’ll be able to make for one board that may not be useful to another,” Laroche says, noting that each market is different. Allowing boards to personalize the product will be one of Bee Commercial’s strengths, he says.
In addition, there will be extensive interaction with social media and it will be possible to add commercial listings to sites outside Canada.
The price real estate boards pay to be part of Bee Commercial will vary depending on the number of commercial brokers in each board.
Laroche says the site will complement the industrial, commercial and investment listing service that CREA operates at Realtor.ca/commercial. “We don’t want to compete with CREA,” he says. “We want to specialize in commercial.”
Laroche says there is lots of interest in Bee Commercial and that the company is currently in discussions with seven or eight major real estate boards in Western Canada.
Interest should pick up when the product launches, says Monick Bergeron, account manager – real estate professionals at JLR.
Bee Commercial is aimed as a Canadian alternative to the U.S. service Catylist, which “doesn’t really exist in Canada,” Bergeron says.
“The commercial field is often ignored,” she says. “There aren’t an enormous number of commercial brokers across Canada and when new products are developed they’re often for residential (brokers) because there’s more volume and more money to be made. Commercial is often cast aside.”
The company would also like to do things in the rest of Canada that it already does in Quebec, such as visiting, analyzing and compiling information for sites involved in commercial transactions. “We’ll see how things go but it’s something we’ll also want to do.”
In late 2016, the capital development fund Fonds de solidarité FTQ, private investment company ECLO Capital and private investment firm W3 Investments announced an investment of $4.2 million in JLR.
The investment will allow JLR to accelerate its growth in North America, Laroche says.
JLR has invested around $200,000 in Bee Commercial to date and the goal is to be profitable after the second year of operation.
Bee Commercial is initially being launched in English Canada. Once the service picks up steam in English Canada, it will be launched in Quebec, where JLR already has a strong presence, Laroche says.
While the goal is to reach agreements with real estate boards, Bee Commercial may eventually open the door to membership by individual brokers if agreements have been made with their boards, he says.
Laroche notes Bee Commercial will not create value-added products with the information that brokers supply and that the service will contain no advertising.
“We respect the real estate brokerage industry a great deal. It’s really a product that’s made for brokers and the brokerage industry.”