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The decision is in: the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the Toronto Real Estate Board’s (TREB) appeal regarding the Competition Bureau’s ruling that requires TREB to allow its members to post sold home prices online.
Translation: Sold prices are coming to a computer near you!
The History of the Battle Over Sold Prices in Toronto
The battle over making sold prices public has been going on for AGES. You can scroll to the bottom to see the details, but essentially:
- In 2016, the Competition Bureau found that TREB was being anti-competitive in not allowing its members (REALTORS) to display sold price information online and ordered TREB to make the data available. [Related: See the original ruling here]
- TREB appealed to the Federal Court of appeal and in 2017, lost.
- TREB then tried to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
- In today’s ruling (August 23, 2018), the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear the appeal.
What The Ruling Means:
- Sold prices can now be made available online in a Virtual Office Website (VOW)
- A VOW is a password-protected website that allows the public to create an account and search for real estate. Up until now, that search was restricted to available properties for sale.
- VOWs will now to be able to display sold prices and historical sales information (including pending sales that have not yet closed)
- Websites will also be able to display withdrawn, expired, suspended and terminated listings
- Also available online: Offers of commission to the co-operating brokerage
- TREB has 60 days to provide the data feed to REALTORS, though we anticipate some companies will be ready to publish this information sooner than that.
So what does this mean for Toronto Buyers and Sellers?
- You’ll soon be able to access a home’s prior sales history online, including price history, as well as pending sales (in other words, homes that have been sold firm, without conditions, but that have not yet closed).
- The prices of homes that have been conditionally sold will not be made available until all conditions have been waived.
- More data means you’ll be better informed and no longer dependent on an agent to give you the full picture of what homes in your neighbourhood are selling for.
- More choices: we’ll see new consumer-facing tools to facilitate search and home valuation (hello Zillow…we’ve been waiting for you!)
- Better agents: I’d like to think we’ll see some agents exit the business…the agents whose primary value was providing data vs. negotiating, strategizing, marketing and protecting their clients.
- Sellers concerned about privacy may restrict their listing from being displayed on the internet (which also means it won’t be displayed on realtor.ca or other websites, while it is for sale).
- Seller names and mortgage information will not be available online.
So what does it mean for REALTORS and brokerages?
- This is an OPPORTUNITY! It’s an opportunity to listen to your consumer and give them what they want – more data and more transparency.
- It’s an opportunity to innovate your services and the value you provide to your clients.
- It’s an opportunity to be the agent your client deserves.
- If the primary value you delivered to your clients was sold information…then it’s probably time that you exit this business anyhow.
- Brokerages: Stop telling your agents to ignore the changes happening in the industry and just keep doing what they’ve always done. Those days are over. If you want to be a progressive brokerage, embrace the change. Better yet, lead it.
The Supreme Court’s decision is BIG news for Toronto real estate. Let’s just hope TREB doesn’t find yet another way to delay the publicity of sold prices.
[A Recap of the Battle Over Sold Prices]
- 2003/2004 & 2009/2010: Big court battles between Lawrence Dale/Realty Sellers and TREB over access to MLS and sold data
- May 2011: The Competition Bureau files an application with the Tribunal challenging “restrictions TREB was imposing on members’ use of data in the MLS” (in other words, they weren’t letting members post sold data online)
- 2013: Case dismissed. Competition Bureau appeals to the Federal Court of Appeal.
- 2014: Tribunal ordered to reconsider.
- 2015: BREL takes a stand: We Need More Transparency in Real Estate (Not Less)
- 2016: Competition Tribunal rules that TREB was stifling competition and innovation by preventing members from creating new online services and tools using home sales data. TREB appeals.
- 2016: BREL writes a letter to the real estate industry: Dear Real Estate Industry
- 2017: The Federal Court of Appeals finds that:
- the testimony in the original hearing was adequate
- TREB’s goal of keeping sold data secret was not out of concern for consumer privacy and;
- the information contained in the MLS database does not meet the requirements to be considered copyrighted information.
- 2017: BREL begs TREB not to appeal the decision: Stop the Madness! TREB: Please Don’t Appeal
- 2017: TREB appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada
- 2018: The Supreme Court of Canada refuses to hear TREB’s appeal