In spring of 2016, Canada’s Competition Tribunal ruled that the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) was preventing competition by prohibiting its realtor members from online disclosure of sales data, including sales prices.
Last week, a Federal Court of Appeal upheld the Tribunal’s decision, making it possible for prospective buyers (who don’t have an uncle or a friend of a friend with a real estate licence, which actually may be a small minority now that I think about it) to easily find out how much the house just like theirs down the block sold for.
The case has been going on for six years now.
The new rules take effect immediately, although TREB continues to fight, saying that they will appeal the decision and ask the Supreme Court to stay the Tribunal order in the meantime. TREB has 60 days to seek leave to do so.
Their goal is to hang onto the status quo, making the only route to MLS information contact with one of their members. Their defense has been the privacy of its clients and copyright issues, but the Tribunal found that the organization holds too much power to influence the market.
In a statement issued following Friday’s ruling, Commissioner of Competition John Pecman said the ruling “paves the way for much needed innovation in the real estate industry.”
It should also pave the way for a sea change in the way we buy and sell real estate, including opening up possibilities for online brokerages who are TREB members. Sales information including commission, previous listings of the same properties and sales transactions that haven’t closed yet will now be made available to consumers.
TREB members are divided, with some trying to protect the old school way of doing business (which surely is to their benefit — imagine how many lawyers would be out of business if they were forced to stop using legalese) and others trying to forge a new, more transparent way forward.
Realosophy president John Pasalis told CBC, “There’s nothing to fear from this for a good realtor, but there’s a lot for bad realtors to fear,” adding that agents who rely on access of information will find themselves hard pressed to compete.
TREB CEO John DiMichele said in a statement that, “TREB believes strongly that personal financial information of home buyers and sellers must continue to be safely used and disclosed.” Whether the information they’re protecting — such as realtor commissions — even qualifies as such is debatable.
Whether or not TREB manages to draw this out further in the courts, there’s no holding back progress; they’re just prolonging the inevitable, and wasting taxpayer money in the process.
It’s an information age and our access to information is becoming more vast all the time (notwithstanding the current US net neutrality debate, a backwards step if ever there was one).
I simply don’t see a downside of the ruling for consumers. Most of us do plenty of online research before buying a new phone or a car, or even a $30 kitchen appliance. Why should the biggest purchase you’ll ever make be any different? It’s time for TREB to embrace the new economy or get out of the way of those who will.
On a lighter note…
Whether you’re already a fan or looking for a new tradition to share with your family, the National Ballet of Canada’s annual production of The Nutcracker is a wonderful option, and it starts this weekend.
Also launching this weekend is Winter at Ontario Place, which features skating parties, light exhibits and lots of other neat holiday stuff, and all of it free.
Saturday at the Opera House, you can take in the most mischievous ticket in town at the Krampus Ball, an opportunity to take in contortionists and tight rope dancing.
There are countless ways to celebrate the season in the big city, and not all of them have to be elaborate or expensive. You can make someone’s day just by paying for their coffee order at the drive-through, or check out the City’s Holiday Wish List to see how you can support Toronto’s homeless.
However the spirit is stirring in you, remember that goodwill is what it’s all about.