A sold sign is shown in front of west-end Toronto homes Sunday, April 9, 2017. Private listings and other alternative sales models are still outliers in Canada’s real estate market, despite the Competition Bureau’s success after seven years of litigation to force the Toronto board to share data on sale prices and listing history online. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

A sold sign is shown in front of west-end Toronto homes Sunday, April 9, 2017. Private listings and other alternative sales models are still outliers in Canada’s real estate market, despite the Competition Bureau’s success after seven years of litigation to force the Toronto board to share data on sale prices and listing history online. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

Signs of real estate innovation after Supreme Court decision opens housing data

Supreme Court ruling has prompted real estate boards in cities including Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa to open up

When Chris Pollard wanted to list his Toronto condo, he decided to try a private sale in his neighbourhood first.

And thanks to a Supreme Court decision last year against the Toronto Real Estate Board, he and his wife were able to look up how much similar units had sold for in the area to better price the home themselves.

Private listings and other alternative sales models are still outliers in Canada’s real estate market, despite an opening up of data on sale prices and listing history.

Still, last year’s ruling has ushered more information for consumers into the market and spurred innovation opportunities, said Anthony Durocher, deputy commissioner for the Competition Promotion Branch of the bureau.

“For the average consumer, they’re able to benefit from greater choice of online tools to enable them to make an informed decision,” he said of the change, which came after seven years of “hard-fought” litigation.

“That’s really a great outcome for competition and innovation.”

The additions to the online real estate landscape have taken a variety of forms, including international companies like Redfin that promise low commissions.

Meanwhile, Canadian players like Zoocasa and HouseSigma are expanding their data-driven models, regional startups like Fisherly are emerging as other boards change rules and realtors are setting up their own data sites.

Stephen Glaysher, who’s worked as a downtown Toronto realtor for 18 years, set up a site called MLS Sold Data as a resource for current and potential clients to boost transparency and trust.

He said he’s long been an advocate of more disclosure on sale prices, in part to keep his own industry in check.

“I see a lot of unethical business practices with real estate agents,” said Glaysher.

He said it’s been too easy in the past for realtors to fudge numbers when determining bid and sale prices, where they could manipulate comparables up or down by as much as $200,000 to make sure they win a bidding war.

“You can doctor it to make it look how you want it to look.”

He said clients can double-check data themselves now that sale prices can be made available online, though he worries some people could make wrong decisions by not analyzing the data properly.

TREB, which fought the release of data largely over privacy concerns, said the ruling has started to dilute the MLS system, because some consumers aren’t providing information or not even listing on the system over privacy concerns.

John DiMichele, president of TREB, said in a statement that he’s concerned how people both in and outside of the industry are using the data. He said the board, which has restrictions including no scraping, mining, or monetizing of the data, is looking to protect its intellectual property and defend personal information.

“We are currently in the process of auditing and protecting confidential information in TREB’s database, which is what our members and consumers expect and what the law demands.”

Aware of privacy concerns, real estate site Zoocasa has taken down some price history information on request, generally a couple a month, said CEO Lauren Haw.

Overall though, the data has allowed the company to provide more information and will play into a range of better tools and valuation features it plans to unveil in the coming months to help people better predict price changes.

“This does allow us to better innovate, in terms of the data interpretation that we’re providing,” she said.

And despite privacy concerns, the Supreme Court ruling has prompted real estate boards in other major cities including Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa to open up their data online, while Quebec’s amalgamated board is considering the issue.

The competition bureau said it has been generally pleased with how other boards have reacted, and that “most” have implemented new rules, but did not provide specific numbers.

But even as the openness of information increases and new companies enter the market, the overall market does not look to have changed all that much, said Queen’s University real estate professor John Andrew.

“Most people aren’t accessing the data that is available, so I don’t see really that it’s had a very profound impact on the market,” he said.

“I kind of made the prediction that this might be kind of the next step of several in the general trend towards the liberalization of data, and that really hasn’t happened, to my surprise.”

He had expected more Canadians would follow the growth in the U.S. of flat-rate listings and other ways to reduce commissions, where the cost savings are “simply staggering,” but the vast majority are sticking with the standard model.

“I think it’s just about the consumers’ confidence level. They’re dealing with their home, and by far their largest investment.”

Pollard, who had listed his condo privately, decided after a quick test of the option to go with a realtor. He said one of the big trade-offs in paying a commission was the greater potential for multiple bidders.

“There’s definitely benefits of having a realtor, and I’m seeing that right now actually, the fact they know how to price it, they have the network. It’s a marketing campaign.”

ALSO READ: Vancouver to hike empty homes tax by 25% for each of next three years

Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Angelique Houlihan gets her COVID-19 vaccine jab last week at the community-wide clinic. (Angelique Houlihan photo)
Vaccine clinic continues this week

Plenty of booking spots available

District of Houston
Council adds flexibility to spending decisions

Singles out road works as potential beneficiary

Filling potholes in Houston
Holes filled on Highway 16

Potholes aren’t restricted to District of Houston streets. Lakes District Maintenance crews… Continue reading

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, Minister Responsible for Housing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. announces $2B for affordable, middle-income family home projects

HousingHub financing to encourage more developers, groups – with low-interest loans – to build affordable homes

Most Read