Most residential home purchasers use the internet to help them in their search for a new home. While consumers have been able to view MLS listings on-line, with full descriptions (often with photos and videos) of properties being offered for sale and the asking price, once the property has been sold the actual sale price has not been available on-line to consumers. They could only obtain this information from a registered real estate agent or broker. Thanks to a recent Supreme Court of Canada (the “SCC”) ruling this is about to change.
For years the Toronto Real Estate Board (“TREB”) has fought to prevent the publication of real estate sales prices, claiming that the public disclosure of this information infringed on the privacy of the home sellers. While some agents and brokers wanted to publish the sale price information on their websites, TREB prohibited them from doing so. Most agents complied with the prohibition as they did not want to risk being completely cut off from access to the MLS system. Canada’s Competition Bureau challenged TREB’s position claiming that the withholding of this information reduced competition among real estate agents and brokers and resulted in higher prices for consumers.
A decision of the Competition Tribunal concluded that TREB had engaged in anti-competitive behavior by not allowing agents and brokers to publish sale price information. The Competition Tribunal’s decision was upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal. TREB then sought leave to appeal to the SCC, but last week the SCC dismissed TREB’s application.
Now that consumers will be able to directly access sale prices, they will able to see the sales history of property that they may be interested in purchasing, as well as the sale prices of comparable properties. This additional information will assist buyers in determining what price they want to offer and hopefully will ensure that they do not overpay for the property that they are purchasing. Concerns have been raised that the lack of transparency in real estate transactions in the past has resulted in buyers overpaying for properties, particularly in a hot market with multiple offers being submitted on one property.