Homes and Condo Mississauga

Should the public have access to home prices? A data reformer and a former TREB president square off


Should the public have access to house prices? A data reformer and a former chairman of the TREB put the square out

At the end of August, the Supreme Court refused to hear a call from the Toronto Real Estate Board, which ended an almost ten-year series of legal battles about Toronto's fate. # 39; s Multiple Listing Service, or MLS.

The Toronto MLS is a database with information about houses in the Greater Toronto Area, only accessible to real estate agents who are members of TREB. The MLS contains information about properties that are currently for sale and also contains some historical information about these houses, which is mainly their previous sales prices over the years. These previous sales are an indispensable tool for real estate agents because they are useful in determining the fair market value of a property. By looking at sales in the past, agents can estimate what similar houses will sell in the future.

Up to now, these sales prices have been hidden from the public. TREB agents have access to this and can share the information privately with customers, but TREB has prevented someone from setting up a website where average home buyers can access historical sales information without the help of an agent. In 2016, the Canadian Competition Tribunal ordered TREB to grant free online access to sales data, rejecting a series of legal objections from TREB. Now that the Supreme Court has refused to hear TREB's last objection, the board will be forced to allow agents to set up websites with searchable sales data.

Some industry observers consider this a victory. No longer will real estate agents be the gatekeepers of historical sales information. Buyers will be able to do their own research, which means that, in theory, they will be able to make better informed decisions about how much they have to pay for a house. But there are many in the real estate sector that are not so enthusiastic about the prospect that sales data are available for free on the internet. They say that placing all that information in public puts the privacy of buyers and sellers at risk.

To get an idea of ​​the state of the debate, we arranged a meeting between two real estate agents with different viewpoints about the Order of the Competition Tribunal. John Pasalis, of Realosophy has long been an advocate of giving the public access to sales data. Paul Etherington, intermediary at Royal Heritage Realty was president of TREB between 2014 and 2015 and remains skeptical about some aspects of the new data regime. This is what they had to say.

TREB's main concern about opening up MLS data to the public has to do with the privacy of home buyers and sellers. What do you think of that? Is it a legitimate concern?

Pasalis: I mean, no, I never thought so. The selling price of a house is not private information. It is made difficult to access.

Etherington: I agree more or less with John, except one thing. The only thing that I think should be private is the current sale. In other words, if I sell your house today and close it at the end of September, I do not think that that price should be available until the transaction is closed a few months later. I do not believe it is a sale until it is closed.

The order of the Competition Tribunal refers to pending soldiers, so TREB will have to make this information available to the public, no matter what happens. What is the wrong thing to be there in anticipation of the data sold?

Etherington: If I sell a house for $ 500,000, if it does not close for any reason and I have to sell it again, the fact that I took $ 500,000 could be harmful are for my position when I negotiated another offer. Or someone could see that the house was sold for $ 500,000 and thought, "Jeez, I would have paid $ 550,000 for that." That person could go directly to the seller and say, "Look, get yourself out of that transaction and I'll pay you $ 25,000 or $ 50,000 more."

John, what do you think of that?

Pasalis: This has recently been one of the arguments of TREB. The feeling I have is if that is the position of TREB, then they may not allow their members to view or e-mail their current sales to their customers. When a broker tries to explain to a potential seller what his house is worth, they look at the sales that took place last week. They do not look at the closed deals, which were usually sold three months ago. I mean, you can not have it in both ways. You can not say that this is private and we should not use it, and yet brokers are allowed to use it every day. And although I appreciate that there is a risk for the seller if their deal goes down, the reality is that TREB has a process for that. If a deal goes down, the seller can instruct their broker to advise TREB, and then TREB will suppress that sale price.

It is true that TREB's brokers have complete free access to this information and always have it. Why are they better equipped to process that data than anyone else?

Etherington: Well, you know, I do not know they are better equipped. I think for the public, if you ask most of them, they do not want their information there until the deal closes.

Just to clarify: do you say that you think TREB should not be awaiting sales? prices available for brokers?

Etherington: No, I think the brokers should have it, because I think the brokers need to do their job well. And I think customers should also have access to it. I do not think it should be public for everyone to see.

Pasalis: So it is fine to give a potential customer the information because they are there personally, but a potential customer who is online should not have access to this

Etherington: Right.

Pasalis: And in one way or another, there is another standard when you do things online.

Etherington: Yes.

Pasalis: Okay.

There are other jurisdictions where people can look up their purchased sales online. Nothing has happened apocalyptically in those places, so why would we expect something different in Ontario?

Etherington: There are certain areas that although pending soldiers publish, but there are many that do not. I believe that TREB must publish the products sold on their own website. I just do not think it's right to do it before they're closed. And even if they do publish in anticipation of the soldiers, I do not believe anything would happen apocalyptically. I do not think that this decision will change the way real estate is done.

John, do you think there will be changes in the real estate sector due to the easing data restrictions?

Pasalis: Well, yes. It is 2018 and people have more access to information about the mattress they want to buy than about the house where they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Etherington: But John, she don & # 39; I have access to how much the store has sold that last mattress for a customer. They know the sales price.

Pasalis: Okay, fine, but there are thousands of tools that tell you what every retailer is currently selling their mattresses. There is much more transparency. I mean, one of the common practices in Toronto for real estate agents is to praise homes for considerably less than what they are worth. Often buyers send an e-mail to their agent and say, "I really love this house that is listed for $ 800,000." They do not realize that it is likely to sell for a million, because they can not see what kind of houses that sell for. It ultimately wastes much of their time and their emotional energy. I think online research is simply the way forward.

Etherington: I try not to keep the information from the public. As I said, I would actually publish all closed sales on the TREB website. I just do not think the current sales should be there.

Pasalis: If TREB had taken steps to make sold data more available, even in a limited way – such as not showing the outstanding sales, perhaps limiting to a one-year turnover – we had probably not this whole match for the Competition Tribunal.

Etherington: You're probably right.

Pasalis: I think the Competition Bureau went into it because TREB did nothing, and I think it is an important lesson.

Etherington: John, I fully agree with you. During the seven years of that lawsuit, lawyers told us countless times that we could not change anything because the special investigation was under way. But you're right. Probably 10 years ago, the information sold had to go online.

You say that the lawyers of TREB advised not to change the data practices because of the current tribunal process?

Etherington: We were actually told that we should not change any rules while the process was in progress.

Why do you think that TREB initially invested in maintaining the status quo? Was it really about privacy or were there other concerns in the game?

Etherington: You make a decision and it is the right decision at the time, whether you believe it is the right decision at the time. Technology changes and time goes on, and now you are in this decision, the lawyers are in it and it is difficult to come back. Even five or six years ago, the technology was so different. Developments change things every year, so decisions made ten years ago or later look like the wrong decisions afterwards.

Was there a fear that easing the restrictions on the use of MLS would be a traditional competitive advantage for members of TREB?

Etherington: I never had that fear. I have been doing this for 34 years and I do not think a competitive advantage has been lost or gained by the fact that these MLS listings are now on the internet everywhere. It's just different.

John, as MLS data become more accessible, are we going to see changes to the committee structure for brokers or new ways of doing business?

Pasalis: I think it raises the bar higher than what people expect from real estate agents. When people have all this information and they can do their own research, you have to offer much more. It will force real estate agents to provide more services and provide better advice. I think that is a good thing, because it will allow the best people in our industry to rise to the top. It becomes more difficult for those who are in this part-time job and do not take it seriously.

Etherington: I do not know that this will improve professionalism just as it has already improved. I believe that professionalism in the industry has improved dramatically in recent years with agents who do more, provide better services, better MLS photos, better tours. But this statement will certainly not hurt.

The order of the Court of First Instance is not a complete carte blanche with regard to data. The interpretation of the order by TREB is that all data sold must still be hidden in a virtual office website & # 39; – in fact, a password-protected web service to which people do not have access, unless they sign up with an e-mail address. John, is that enough? Or would the order have gone further?

Pasalis: TREB certainly has the right to send messages to people who only post things online without a user having to log in and register via a VOW, because that is what the order is about. But I mean, I do not like that. I would have liked to have sold more details publicly.

Etherington: I do not think a VOW offers great protection. I think TREB must publish sales data on their public website after closing.

So having things in VOW & # 39; s does not detract from your concern about hanging soldiers?

Etherington: No, I do not think that level of security is really adequate. Everyone can sign up for a VOW, so what's the difference to let someone do that instead of just providing information to them? [1945910] And the fact that TREB has a process to suppress sales that do not close does not need to take away your worries?

Etherington: I think that people will look for temporary solutions to prevent outstanding selling prices from being made public. I would hate to discover that 10% of the home sales that are made are being misinterpreted, because that would spoil the data in my opinion.

John, is that a concern of yours, at all?

Pasalis: I do not see the problem. Are there enough people who are really concerned about the fact that other people know the selling price of their homes, that they will somehow go through the process of buying the MLS? The reality is that when a house is sold, every neighbor in the street knows what it is sold for, and that is usually what people care most about: their neighbors and their friends, not a random person looking for a home.

Paul, now that everyone seems to be doing it, do you want to sell and pending information on the website of your own brokerage?

Etherington: We will. We will attract it. I know some brokers have already done it. We do it when the feed becomes available via TREB. Although I do not agree with the hanging soldiers, if everyone has them, we will have them too.

And John, what is the status of Realosophy? Is this information already available on your site?

Pasalis: Yes, we have the data available. We've had it for a while, but we only made it available to our customers because we could not make it public. But we turned the switch last week.

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