“You’re not allowed to disclose the price,” says Ken Ramsay, an agent in Toronto who has seen this kind of illegal marketing in his own neighbourhood. “I concentrate online now, but I’ve had to take sold listings off my site.”
Like Ramsay, fewer agents are using the marketing technique, but many still distribute flyers throughout a target neighbourhood, boasting the selling prices of various properties in the area. These flyers, intended to entice potential sellers, are in violation of the Toronto Real Estate Board’s rules regarding published sold data.
“I started weeding down (on flyering) because I found it ineffective compared to other ways of marketing, such as the Internet,” says Ira Jelinek, a Toronto-based agent. “You don’t give out all the information, so you don’t put the sale price, and gives the neighbours a reason to call you.”
Jelinek and Ramsay agree that releasing sold data to the neighbourhood could be embarrassing for the sellers.
“I have some clients who were curious to see what the neighbour’s house sold for but the seller might want to keep it private,” Ramsay says. “If your house sold for a crazy high number or a low number, it could be embarrassing (to have that broadcast).”
The Competition Bureau claims the privatization of sold data is anti-competitive on TREB’s part, and the Bureau and the Board have been in and out of hearings since 2011. At the latest hearing in May, TREB will argue that the data should be kept private since its membership pays for the collection and the organization of the information by way of their fees.
“We shouldn’t have to give (sold data) away to the public for free,” says Elaine Smallwood, a 25-year real estate veteran in Ottawa. “We have invested in this – it’s a business investment. To be told this isn’t yours, it belongs to the public, I believe the boards need to stand up for our rights, and that isn’t what’s going on.”
While the debate over making sold data public is far from over – the Toronto board will sit before a tribunal in May to continue conversations with the country’s competition bureau – many agents see the value in this type of marketing. However, many more are not willing to risk their licenses, and by extension, their livelihoods.
“(Breaking the rules) could hurt you,” Jelinek says. “Of course it’s not worth the trade-off.”
If you’re looking for those guilty of breaking TREB’s new rules on sharing sold-data, you need look no further than a growing number of agent flyers.