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Report on Business Toronto Real Estate Board to give home buyers, sellers access to long-restricted property sales data

Toronto-area real estate buyers will be able to access transaction records for properties and track records for agents, home-sale data that have long been limited. The Toronto Real Estate Board is ready to comply with the federal Competition Tribunal’s order to stop restricting data that it shares with its own members.

For seven years, the country’s largest realtor association, with 50,000 members, has fought against regulators over questions of competition and innovation in real estate services in the country’s hottest market. Now, consumers will be able to log onto a virtual office website (VOW) connected to brokers and see for themselves what houses in the Greater Toronto Area sell for, how many times a listing’s price has changed and sales volumes for specific agents.

This removes an obstacle for real estate upstarts, particularly online services, competing for new clients.

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“The next frontier is finding ways to use this information to reveal interesting insights about the housing market as a whole and about neighbourhoods more specifically,” said John Pasalis, broker and president of Realosophy Realty Inc., who has been a frequent critic of TREB’s restrictive policies. “This task is much harder than just displaying sold prices and I suspect only few brokerages will be looking for ways to find insights from the data.”

On the weekend, TREB sent an e-mail to its members saying it was planning to make “disputed data” such as “sold, withdrawn, expired, suspended or terminated listing information” available over its VOW data feed, although it said that anyone hoping to see it had to request access by e-mail.

TREB CEO John DiMichele confirmed in a statement that starting on Tuesday, password-protected VOWs would have access to the data, allowing them to display sold prices, for the first time without legal threat.

On Aug. 23, the Supreme Court declined to hear further arguments from TREB, ending its attempts to overturn the Federal Court of Appeal’s 2017 ruling that upheld the Competition Tribunal’s 2016 findings and remedies for TREB’s anti-competitive actions.

At the time, some of the country’s largest metro-area real estate boards said they would study the ruling to ensure they weren’t in similarly anti-competitive positions.

On Monday, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver and the Calgary Real Estate Board did not respond to requests for comment.

TREB’s implementation of the Competition Tribunal’s order will give "home buyers and sellers in Canada’s largest real estate market access to a greater range of innovative service options, delivered through greater competition among TREB’s members,” Matthew Boswell, the Competition Bureau’s interim commissioner of competition, said in a statement on Monday.

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“We will be closely watching to ensure that the letter and spirit of the tribunal’s order is adhered to, so that consumers can finally benefit from the competition and innovation they have been waiting for,” he continued.

The bureau had long maintained that TREB was to comply with the 2016 order immediately after the top court’s Aug. 23 decision, while TREB lawyers had delayed implementation claiming it had 60 days to fall into line.

The TREB weekend e-mail to its members said: “Members providing access are responsible for how their actual or potential clients and customers use the information.”

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