With Toronto Real Estate Board's final appeal to the Supreme Court being denied, the ongoing legal battle about real estate sold prices being made public is finally coming to an end. But for many innovative companies, this is just the beginning of what they hope is a change in the way Canadians trade in real estate. Now that there is finally some clarity about the future, there will be a flurry of activity as real estate companies try to capitalize on a changing market.
The most pressing issue is how having access to sold data will impact the behaviour of buyers and sellers right now. This used to be one of the most important services a real estate agent could offer, but now homeowners will be able to figure out the approximate value of a house through sold data available online. Especially in a busy market like Toronto, pricing a home isn't rocket science when there are so many comparable properties to choose from.
Armed with these new tools, homeowners will be much more comfortable going through the selling process without the services of a traditional real estate agent. This change will spur a plethora of new and innovative options in real estate.
There will be both reduced commission and flat fee options where you can pick and choose what services you want. There will also be technology companies who will create pricing algorithms now that they have access to the sold data. In many cases, these algorithms will be more accurate than the opinion of a single real estate agent, and they will quickly become an important part of any real estate transaction.
Even though the current ruling applies only to TREB, it's just a matter of time until the sold data becomes available across Canada. The Competition Bureau made no mistake in targeting Canada's largest real estate board, as now the precedent has been set. Across Canada, progressive brokerages will be challenging their local boards to follow suit, and they will have no choice but to comply.
As the sold data becomes available across Canada, expect to see huge technology investments as different companies try to increase their share of the web traffic related to real estate. Not only is Realtor.ca currently one of the most visited websites in Canada, but the traffic that goes there is incredibly valuable. When people are buying and selling homes, they are also doing home renovations, buying furniture, and in general spending more money than at almost any other time in their lives.
The website Zillow, which is already the most visited real estate website in the United States is already investing in the Canadian real estate market. In the United States, Zillow gets much more traffic than Realtor.com, and they have both an innovative advertising platform and a custom program to come up with a home valuation based on sold data. This is just one example, and there will be many other websites popping up with similar offerings. The result will be that how Canadians search for homes will change away from the traditional agent and Realtor.ca options.
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One of the most interesting stories to follow is whether or not the CREA and TREB will choose to post the sold data on their own website, Realtor.ca. Remember, TREB just spent seven years and a huge amount of resources fighting this decision. They argued that posting the sold data was a violation of homeowners' privacy, and even that it was morally wrong. So will they change their mind and post the sold data now that it might benefit them? This is a good test of their credibility, and will definitely impact the industry in a significant way.
In the end, after a seven-year court battle, all that TREB managed to do was delay the inevitable, which is allowing technology to give better value to consumers. The role of the real estate agent is changing, and it is the consumer who is the big winner here as they will have more options to choose from, and more information with which to power their home buying and selling decisions.
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