The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) has no plans to give consumers an opt-out clause so that the selling price of their homes won’t be published online. Nor is it resisting a Competition Tribunal order that says it must allow its members to publish sold data with real-estate listings.
But fewer than 1,000 of the Toronto Real Estate Board’s (TREB) 7,000 online brokerage members have requested a new data feed that includes sold prices, said real-estate board CEO John DiMichele on Monday.
Consumers have been so anxious to see the selling prices of homes and, in some cases, so worried their own information will become public that they have been calling and emailing TREB, he said.
Pending sold data — the agreed-upon price of a home sale that is still not final — is of particular concern, said DiMichele, in one of the first media interviews the board has granted since the Supreme Court of Canada ended TREB’s seven-year fight against seeing the information posted on password protected websites.
“If you’re looking at pending solds and that deal falls through, a seller may feel they have been compromised because the sales price has been out there,” he said.
On Aug. 23, the Supreme Court refused to hear TREB’s appeal of a 2016 Competition Tribunal order that said the board must allow its members with online brokerages — known in the real-estate industry as virtual office websites (VOWs) — to post selling prices on their websites as long as site users had to register with a password.
TREB began flowing that information to VOWs last week. But only 9 per cent or 620 of the board’s 6,846 online brokers are receiving the feed. Another 316 requests are pending. Some VOWs don’t want to interrupt their current systems and others are waiting to see if the new system is operating smoothly, said DiMichele.
Toronto broker John Pasalis, whose Realosophy site is displaying the sold information, says that’s not entirely surprising because there are some technical modifications required to display the sold data. It’s also possible that some of the 6,846 VOWs that existed prior to the competition dispute may not be active.
DiMichele defended the weeks it has taken TREB to put the new data feed in motion. The board had to incorporate new rules for using sold data into its documents, agreements, education materials and the rules around the use of the board’s Multiple Listings Service (MLS).
DiMichele said there are still privacy implications that will need to be understood. “Our position is simple: we are following the order the way we understand it today. If consumers have complaints about these matters then there are other authorities not unlike the privacy commissioner they can go get guidance from, even the Competition Bureau itself,” he said
DiMichele stressed that sensitive listing information meant only for realtors — when children might be in a home alone or when elderly people are involved — will not be posted.
It is a misconception that TREB fought the publication of sold data because it was resisting competition and innovation, said DiMichele.
“This is supposed to help a member innovate on how they provide a client with their service,” he said. “Ultimately, we’re looking forward to seeing some of the innovative approaches,” said DiMichele.
Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski