“The public wants to get more involved and do their due diligence…and determine for themselves what is happening with real estate values,” says Fraser Beach, the broker of record for Select/Plan Real Estate and the agent behind TOsolds.ca. “The service was invaluable to them to know what’s really happening in the market place.”
Beach says the public is increasingly set on playing a leading role in the purchase or sale of their homes, and access to the Board’s sold data is a crucial part of that.
Further, Beach says that if agents believe their only value is in gatekeeping the information, they could soon find themselves in the same boat as travel agents.
“(Agents should) not depend on hoarding info as the raison d'être,” he says. “There are a lot of things an agent can do to put a deal together and hold it together. The concept of hoarding data – the time has gone for (agents) to exist on that basis.”
But what about the proprietary nature of the information? Agents in the REP forum have, time and time again, pointed to the fact that their board fees pay to collect, organize and keep MLS sold data. What does Beach have to say to that?
“I think that’s a self-serving attitude,” he retorts. “Let’s face it: that’s what organized real estate has done for the last 50 years. They’ve become gatekeepers but in the information age, that approach doesn’t wash anymore. If they don’t get with the times, they’ll be replaced with a process that doesn’t require an agent.”
Beach is also addressing client privacy concerns associated with the release of data about their home values.
“The real estate boards and some agents put a lot of emphasis on the privacy aspect, but anyone who deals in the law of privacy, it doesn’t wash for a number of reasons,” he says. “(Clients) sign off on providing this information to anyone who is interested.
“If you want to know what the property down the street sold for, it isn’t private information; it’s information that 41,000 (GTA agents) have access to and are free to give it out without any restriction.”
The Toronto Real Estate Board’s tribunal hearing with Canada’s Competition Bureau may be postponed, but the debate on sold data is far from over, with one agent promising to continue to publish that information.