A data access deal between the Toronto Real Estate Board and a neighbouring board will for the first time expand the geographic reach of new competition rules that have allowed Canadian house hunters more access to such critical data as sold prices, expired listings and agent performance.
In August, the Supreme Court ruled that TREB must comply with a 2016 Competition Tribunal ruling that ordered the real estate board to end a practice of blocking members from publishing online such disputed data as sold prices. The order only applied to TREB and its 52,000 members, but the data restrictions the tribunal banned are common across other local real estate boards around the country, with the exception of the Maritimes.
The Oakville, Milton and District Real Estate Board (OMDREB) deal with TREB for the first time brings agents outside of TREB’s membership into the more open data-sharing environment.
Other realtor boards across the nation have said they are watching TREB’s compliance effort, but as yet none has gone so far as to implement rule updates of their own.
“I don’t want to put a timeline on it, but we can substantiate we are making efforts, we can learn from [TREB’s] adjustments and employ them here,” said John Barbisan, president of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board in British Columbia.
His board shares its Multiple Listing System with the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver and the Chilliwack Real Estate Board (which in total represent more than 18,000 agents) and the groups are working together on a combined response to the new rules. “We’ve been watching it closely of course, there’s going to be unintended consequences and growing pains,” he said.
TREB president Garry Bhaura announced the deal Thursday, describing it in a statement as “a win-win not only for members of TREB and OMDREB but also for our members’ clients.” The data will include all active, sold, cancelled and suspended listings dating back to January, 2018, and should roll out to members before the end of the year.
“This is the first agreement of this kind that TREB has entered into,” said OMDREB president Rick Kedzior. “I leveraged a personal friendship with John DiMichele [TREB’s CEO]. It’s hopefully a start … I know John will consider doing it with other boards. Kitchener for instance has a lot of TREB members listing in that area.”
The primary purpose of the data-swap is to address a blind spot in the two different listing software systems the boards use to operate their markets. Although registered agents can list a property anywhere in the province, they will typically use the software of their home board to manage the sale. OMDREB is already part of a data-sharing partnership called ORTIS that sweeps up Guelph and Simcoe listings, among others.
Until now, TREB has had no data-sharing deals with other boards. OMDREB has 1,800 members covering the towns of Oakville, Milton and parts of Halton Hills, but in recent years about half of Milton’s real estate listings were being handled by TREB members. That put both boards in the position of having agents operate with an incomplete picture of the market. “Sometimes, the listing price would be off, because they didn’t know about recent activity,” Mr. Kedzior said.
Mr. Kedzior said the boards had been negotiating the deal to address these blind spots for about a year, and that the issue of sold prices or virtual office website (VOW) rules played almost no role in the decision; there are no VOWs being operated by any of his members, he says.
He also said OMDREB is planning to adopt TREB’s updated VOW data rules as soon as it’s clear the Competition Bureau has signed off on TREB’s approach, and he believes other boards may follow suit.
Mr. Kedzior believes the deal could someday lead to a province-wide system of data-sharing listings. “There’s more openness, people have changed their vision and see how it would be beneficial for their membership.”
In a recent interview, Mr. DiMichele said TREB was working collaboratively with the bureau to comply with the order, but did suggest there were might still be areas of disagreement to be hammered out.
“I’m sure we’re not done with respect to privacy … we’re still hearing it from consumers, still hearing it from members,” Mr. DiMichele said, particularly as it relates to the display of prices from conditionally sold properties that have not yet closed. TREB’s position is that, if a deal falls through, the sold price should be expunged so as not to harm the market for that property, although the order makes no such requirement. “The tribunal’s decision said this was a very close call … this is a very complex matter and we’re trying to transition to comply with the order.”