Updated September 18 7:30 PM
Following the recent Supreme Court ruling about sold home prices in Toronto, the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) will be making the sold price data feed publicly available to “password-protected websites (also known as a Virtual Office Website or VOW)”, as of September 18, 2018. Sounds ominous and important…but what does that actually mean?
What sold price information will be made public?
- Properties that are listed and sold on the TREB MLS (including properties not located in Toronto) will display the sold price from the moment those properties are sold “firm” (meaning all conditions have been waived). This means that once a fully binding agreement has been come to, that price is public, even long before the sale “closes” (i.e. the ownership actually changes hands), which can be months later.
- Prices for the last 2 years will be searchable from within a VOW account. To access additional data, the public will need to complete a form (that would allow searching back to 2003).
- Note: Sold prices of properties with conditions (e.g. financing or home inspection) will NOT be publicly distributed until conditions have been waived
Where will sold prices be made available?
Sold data will be available on password-protected Virtual Office Websites (VOW’s). What the heck does that mean?
There are plenty of REALTOR websites where you can search houses for sale. But have you noticed that most of the time, what you can see is limited until you “create an account and sign in?” That’s the password-protected part. It’s like the difference between putting something on a billboard, and putting something on a screen inside a theatre where they check your ID at the door. (OK, maybe that’s not the best analogy, but you get the idea.)
It’s important to note: for the last few years, a handful of companies have been “scraping” the data illegally (think: those guys with video cameras in theatres) and providing sold price information publicly on their non-password-protected websites–I expect we’ll see this happen more frequently.
Was sold price information private before this ruling?
No, not really. It was available in 3 ways:
- For properties listed on the Toronto MLS, the sold prices of firm sales (closed and unclosed) have always been available to REALTORS. TREB’s 50,000+ members have in turn readily provided that information to their clients and the media (and let’s be honest, anybody who asks them how much a property sold for).
- For properties not sold on the MLS, REALTORS could obtain this information (for closed properties only) from the land registry system.
- Additionally, any property owner in Ontario has long been able to search sold property prices (for free) on MPAC (the municipal system that assesses property taxes). All they had to do was create an account with their tax assessment roll number and access key (found on the bottom right of the Property Assessment Notice).
Warning: It’s the Wild West Right Now
TREB is still figuring out the ramifications of the ruling and has been slow to communicate with their members. Still to be determined:
- How the ruling will be further interpreted
- How it will affect the standard forms and agreements
- How it will affect agent requirements under the Real Estate Business Brokers Act
- If the sold prices of properties listed with other real estate boards will become public (not TREB’s decision)
- How brokerages and non-brokerages will abide by (or not abide by) the new rules
There are no further appeals options for TREB and no outstanding litigation with the Competition Bureau.
So what can I do if I don’t want the sold price of my home publicly available?
There are 4 places where the sold price of your home will be found:
- MPAC (can be searched by anyone)–this info comes from the land registry
- MLS (can be searched by REALTORS)
- VOW’s (can be searched by anyone with a password-protected account, aka anyone with 5 minutes to set up an account)
- Illegal websites where data has been scraped (can be viewed by anyone)
Scenario 1: You don’t want the sold price on record with MPAC
If you don’t want the sold price of your home to be publicly available within land records & MPAC, you can pre-pay the land transfer before closing, instead of having your lawyer do it on the day of closing.
To prepay your Ontario land transfer tax: You’ll need to provide some documents, affidavits and a cheque to the Ministry of Finance, who will then provide you with a special code to be entered on closing, that proves that you’ve already paid the land transfer taxes. Your real estate lawyer can tell you exactly what you need to provide and how to pay it.
To prepay the City of Toronto land transfer tax: Same drill, only this time you’ll be paying Toronto Revenue Services. Again, your lawyer can tell you exactly what’s required.
If you prepay your land transfer taxes, the sold price showing for your property in the land registry system will be zero or $2.
Pro Tip: If you want to prepay your land transfer taxes, tell your lawyer right away – the process can take a while.
Scenario 2: You don’t want the sold price on record on MLS
If you don’t want the sold price of your home accessible by REALTORS on the MLS, you have two options:
- List your property for sale “exclusively” – When you list a home exclusively, it means you are hiring an agent to sell your house without using the MLS, so REALTORS won’t see it there when it’s available for sale, and thus won’t see the sold price on MLS. Of course, this comes with one huge disadvantage: you’ll solely be relying on your agent’s own means (and the agent’s brokerage, technically) to find you a Buyer. You’ll miss out on exposing your home to TREB’s 50,000+ agents, their clients and the public. [Related: Should I list exclusively?]
- Sell your home privately – Of course, you don’t necessarily need a realtor to sell your home–anyone is free to stick a FOR SALE sign on their lawn. When you sell privately, it obviously isn’t listed on the MLS, so the sold price won’t show up there either. [Related: Selling Your Home Without a REALTOR]
Important: If you DO list your home on the MLS, your agent is required to report the accurate sale price of your home within 2 business days after the conditions have been removed and the deposit has been received. No, they can’t report a sales price of $1 or some other fictitious number (someone tried that last week). The integrity of the data is critical, and all agents must abide by the reporting rules to keep being able to access the data.
Scenario 3: You don’t want the sold price on the REALTOR VOW sites
Updated: There is nothing you can do to prevent your home from being seen on a VOW if it is listed on the Toronto MLS.
Scenario 4: You don’t want the sold price on illegal websites with scraped data
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to prevent this if your property was listed on the MLS. TREB has not taken action on these sites for years, and I wouldn’t expect them to do anything about it anytime soon.