If you are in the market for real estate and have found it frustrating getting information on properties, that looks like it is going to change.
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that it won’t hear an appeal from the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) that would try to keep the board’s members from publishing home sales data.
The decision may mean the end of a long legal battle over whether consumers should have online access to information such as home sales prices, house history and property market trends in a neighbourhood.
Those currently looking for home sales data usually have to turn to real estate agents and brokers, who have access to the Multiple Listing Service database, where sales data for closed deals are compiled. Others rely on online property value services like Teranet or local land registry offices, which charge a fee for the public to access sales data.
TREB has fought since 2011 to keep the figures in the hands of real estate agents, arguing that posting the data would violate consumer privacy.
In 2011, the Competition Bureau, a federal watchdog designed to protect consumers by investigating business policies and mergers, challenged TREB’s policy preventing the publication of such information, saying it impedes competition and digital innovation.
Many believe this decision is long overdue and it will greatly assist the population in making informed decisions.
What Does this Mean for Other Real Estate Markets?
The data release will eventually spread to “pretty much every real estate market in Canada” because most were waiting to see how TREB’s case fared before they agreed to open access to data, said John Andrew, a real estate professor at Queen’s University.
In some provinces like British Columbia and Alberta, the real estate boards do not stop their members from releasing that kind of information.
Advantage to the consumer
Real estate experts say the past history of a house can help educate consumers before they make an offer. They can see if a house has been flipped several times in a short period or if it has been pulled off the market and then relisted a short time later.
When Are Changes Happening?
The Toronto Real Estate Board said in a statement that it respects the Supreme Court’s decision. A Competition Tribunal order to release more housing data to the public is expected to come into effect in two months’ time.
Bottom Line: The real estate game is changing and information looks to become more available to the general public.
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