The Federal Competition Tribunal ordered the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) to let its member brokers update home sales data online for the public to view in a move that could resonate across Canadian real estate markets.
The tribunal said that TREB must let its members offer searchable online databases called “virtual office websites” and should not restrict access to data, including home sales data and other sales data.
These online databases hold important information such as sales prices, broker commissions, and withdrawn listings, as well as archived data. This would lead to consumers having more information.
“We’ve always taken the position where the more information that consumers have, the better decisions they can make,”
The Toronto Real Estate Board said in a statement it was “disappointed” by the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision on Friday to uphold a 2016 Competition Tribunal ruling that said TREB’s practices prohibiting sharing home sales data online were anti-competitive.
“We’ve always taken the position where the more information that consumers have, the better decisions they can make,” John Pasalis, president of the Toronto real estate brokerage Realosophy and a witness in favour of opening up the data said.
Some estate agents are looking to use the Competition Tribunal’s orders to their advantage as quickly as possible and brokers outside of Toronto to expecting an impact in their local markets.
The Competition Tribunal’s ruling does set some limits on exactly which Multiple Listing Service data can be released online and it would only be accessible to consumers who have a password-protected account with the broker providing it.
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Likewise, individual home sellers can request that TREB exclude their home sale information from the online databases if they don’t wish to disclose this information publicly. Mortgage and security related information about a home seller too can be kept confidential.
The data will “offer consumers the convenience of data-driven insights into home sales prices and trends via the web and to improve the efficiency and quality of their services,” the federal Competition Bureau earlier said.
Consumers can make better choices using the trends and home sales prices they can now access over the internet, and hence brokers can improve their efficiency and quality of their services.
TREB CEO John DiMichele said TREB has filed a notice of appeal but is reviewing the order with its lawyers before commenting publicly. The TREB has 60 days from June 3 to implement these changes and will also have to pay the Competition Commissioner’s legal costs of more than $1.8 million. TREB is the largest real estate board in Canada with about 45,000 members from the Greater Toronto Area.
This legal saga goes back to 2011 when the Competition Bureau sued TREB for restricting the ways in which its members could release data from the Multiple Listing System as the bureau felt the practices were anti-competitive and kept customers from accessing information that would help them buy a house.