The Toronto Real Estate Board has issued a stern warning to agents not to enter “inaccurate sold prices” of a real estate transaction into the multiple listing system, even if their clients are concerned about privacy.
The warning came one day after a number of Toronto real estate professionals began circulating a screenshot on Twitter that showed an MLS listing that claimed a house priced at $3.1-million had been sold for $1.
“I suspect they're just trying to hide the sale price,” wrote Realosophy president John Pasalis, though many other commenters had wild theories (suspecting everything from money laundering to bitcoin).
By Wednesday morning, the listing had been corrected – the home actually sold below-list for $2.98-million – and TREB issued the following warning via email: “We have received reports that some Members have been reporting inaccurate figures in the sold prices of their listings due to privacy concerns raised by their customers … While we appreciate these privacy concerns, inputting inaccurate sold prices into TREB’s MLS® System is contrary to both TREB’s MLS® Rules & Policies. A failure to comply with TREB’s MLS® Rules & Policies may lead to professional conduct disciplinary proceedings and/or suspension or termination of TREB Membership.”
In this instance, it was the seller, listed as condo development company Betula Developments Inc., who requested the listing agent keep the sold price private, according to John Lusink, president of Right at Home Realty Inc., where the listing agent Joanne Birch works.
Lusink said the $1 entry was a mistake, and chalked it up in part to an agent wanting to respect a client’s requests, and also to the confusion surrounding a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that upheld a Competition Tribunal order that ended some restrictions on certain types of data that realtors can share online.
“I think the seller just took that [ruling] as ‘Hey, I guess we don’t have to do this, and I don’t want you to do it,’” Lusink said. “It’s not a big deal from our point of view; as soon as we found out we corrected it. I think agents, at this point in time, are a little bit confused about what the ruling means; what can we do and can’t we do.”
The house was listed for sale on August 24, one day after the Supreme Court ruled that home price data could be shared online. It sold on September 6.
TREB has issued FAQs on the meaning of the Competition Tribunal order but continues to send threatening legal letters to brokerages that list home sale prices online. TREB spokespeople have said the realtor association will be in compliance with the court ruling as early as mid-September or by October 22, at the latest.
The Tribunal’s order does allow TREB to develop a system for clients to opt out of sharing sold price data on MLS, but the exact method for how to do that is still under review. The selling price of a home has long been publicly available, for a fee, in Ontario from land registry sources such as Teranet.