Last week the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the Toronto Real Estate Board’s appeal to protect it’s proprietary database which is supported through a membership fee from all its members. Although TREB has made changes to allow Virtual Office Websites access to the information, the Competition Tribunal deemed it was not enough.
The Tribunal would like to see sold data, pending sales, withdrawn, expired, suspended or terminated listings, and offers of commission made public. They’ve made the MLS system their target since 2011.
Now, let’s think about this for a second, because that’s all it takes to realize this is absurd. If you sell your home, and the sale is pending, the price you sold for would have to be revealed TO THE PUBLIC! If the sale does not close (as has happened to many sellers over the past few months), you’re negotiating power for a future transaction is lost! That’s just one of the many examples I can use to show why this is a ridiculous idea.
The misconception is that Realtors do not want sold data released to the public, or that Realtors want to withhold information. This is not the case at all. This idea is a smoke screen created by the Compeition Tribunal. First, as a Realtor, the better educated my clients are in terms of their competition, the better it is for me to do my job. This has nothing to do with Sold data being withheld. In fact, there should be an opt-in system for the CONSUMER to decide if they want any information they deem private to be released or not. A Realtor’s fiduciary duty to our clients, as stipulated in our Code Of Ethics, is to protect their best interest and not disclose pending sales data to protect their negotiating power. The Code States:
“3.3 A REALTOR® shall not, during or following the relationship with his/her Client, reveal Confidential Information of the Client.”
Are Realtors to act against what is stipulated in their Code Of Ethics and leave themselves open to fines and put their license on the line?
Secondly, the MLS is a privately owned, funded and maintained site that is funded by members through an annual membership fee. Why should a proprietary site be forced to open up to the public without any compensation or fee associated with it? And if it should, why not make Teranet open up their Land Registry System or Purview – a system used by Mortgage brokers. Teranet is the exclusive provider of Ontario’s online property search and registration. They developed, own and operate the Ontario Electronic Land Registration System – one of the most advanced, secure and sophisticated land registration systems in the world. The public version of Land Registry is very similar to the public version of the MLS, in that privacy details are withheld to protect the consumer. If the MLS is forced to open its doors to the public, so too should the Land Registry. This information is key in allowing the public to determine who is on title on a property and prevent any type of fraud associated with selling the same. Furthermore, Purview – a system operated by Teranet and provided on a membership basis to professionals in the lending industry, holds key information that would help us all determine what to offer on a property and historic details of the property. How does Teranet’s system fly under the radar and not the MLS? Both are membership sites that hold similar information. SO why not open up Land Registry or Purview? I’m sure Teranet could be acting in uncompetetive ways by limiting the information they collect to members only. Isn’t this what the Competition Bureau was concerned with? Oh, wait. The government is one of Teranet’s clients. The government wouldn’t want to risk upsetting the gatekeepers of the information they rely on would they?
Now back to the MLS. What exactly is the MLS? Is it a secret club that prevents information from being distributed thereby creating superhuman powers for a Realtor? NO! It’s simply a vehicle to advertise listings, and for using this vehicle Realtors have to abide by certain standards and policies to protect the integrity of the information advertised. This information includes sold pricing once a deal is firmed up. What if a Realtor (or their client) chooses not to advertise on the MLS? All of the sudden there is no information about that property available on the MLS, and certainly no sold data. Furthermore, what if a Realtor, or their client, decide to terminate advertising of their listing on the MLS prior to it being sold. Now that home’s sold data will not be available through the MLS. NOW who holds the key to the information that the Tribunal feels Realtors withhold? All eyes now turn to Teranet. So if this really is about fair distribution of information, is the MLS the problem here?
Without going after Teranet’s Purview or Land Registry, and just focusing on the MLS, this remains nothing more than a witch hunt and a blatant attempt to hijack the MLS.