Will The Public Be Able to Access Toronto's "Sold' Data?

Wednesday Dec 06th, 2017


It's definitely going to be a while.

Currently the general public can’t access Toronto's past home sale prices without the help of a Realtor. For privacy, it's controlled by the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). But that might very well be changing.

A 2016 Federal Court ruling which ordered TREB to end its strict controls on some housing data has recently been upheld, despite an appeal. Canada’s competition commissioner had argued that TREB’s practices were stifling competition and innovation. But TREB will now appeal to the Supreme Court to reverse that decision.

The database of the Multiple Listing Service (or MLS) is run by the Canadian Real Estate Association. Anyone has access to the list prices and addresses of homes currently for sale on Realtor.ca.   Realtors, though, can share with their clients, a more comprehensive version of these listings including historical sales and the most recent ones, as well as homes that never sold.

Realtors have respected the privacy of home owners by only sharing this information privately. So, anyone who is not working with an agent, can’t acces this data. The Competition Commission argued that this ties the hands of agents who want to market this private information to consumers. In 2016, Canada’s Competition Tribunal agreed and decidede that TREB can’t prevent agents from sharing sale data on their own websites.

The benefit?  Realtors can advise clients when prices were reduced in their desired neighbourhoods, track the number of homes selling above or below the list price, and offer faster property valuations. Consumers could use the information to determine the current value of a home they wanted to buy, without needing to ask a realtor directly for help.

TREB argued that allowing such free access to this data violates privacy and copyright legislation. But the Court of Appeal continues to maintain that TREB’s restrictions were intended mainly to hold onto a competitive advantage for its own Realtors, by creating a market where they’re the best resource of past/current, accurate home sales.

TREB is now appealing to the Supreme Court which may or may not be allowed. And until a final Supreme Court ruling, TREB will block the release of any data and it will definitely take many, many months to determine. Now, the national industry behemoth, the Canadian Real Estate Association, has intervened signaling that there could be grave national consequences.

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