Ever wondered what that house across the street sold for? That information was only available to you through a Realtor, but not anymore. The recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada, refusing to hear an appeal from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), over access to real estate data, will have repercussions across the country.
For years, TREB, a private organization restricted access to its home sales pricing data, although it was readily available to consumers through a Realtor.
For seven years, TREB fought against the federal Competition Bureau, with TREB insisting that publishing sales and other market data online violated client privacy and its own copyright over the information. For many consumers and Realtor members, the ruling was a win for full transparency rather than for a loss of privacy.
Commissioner of Competition, Matthew Boswell, said in a statement, "The ruling is "a decisive victory for competition, innovation and for consumers. The removal of TREB’s "anti-competitive” restrictions will give homebuyers and sellers "greater access to information and innovative real estate services when making one of the most significant financial decisions of their lives.”
There is the argument that releasing this data will negatively impact the market. However, there are two examples that counter this argument; when the US real estate housing market started releasing this data, the industry grew. And, there was a time in Canada when stocks and bond data was private and when it started to release its data, the industry grew and flourished.
TREB continues to argue that financial information about selling prices is a privacy issue. While they consider their next steps, let’s take a look at what the fallout will mean for both buyers and sellers.
The Toronto Real Estate Board is the largest board across Canada. It won’t be a surprise if other board follow their lead and start releasing sales data. Remember, consumers already had access to the data through their Realtor.
Knowing the asking price is only one factor – it’s the selling price that’s most important. Knowing selling prices will give buyers a better idea of the value of the home they want to buy. This could result in sellers listing their homes closer to the average selling price.
Transparency allows buyers to properly assess the value of their own homes without relying on the real estate agent. Buyers can then make better pricing decisions if, for example, they want a quick sale.
Overall, access to housing history and data puts the power into the hands of consumers. We could also see a lowering of prices in hot areas such as Toronto and Vancouver as consumers become more empowered.
The truth of the matter is that Realtors, similar to mortgage brokers, have their value rooted in their ability to educate the consumer and various options – that their jobs are about service. Data is not the product, service is.
Full transparency is good for consumers and sustains a healthy, robust real estate market.