The organization that runs MLS listing content for 21 member boards and associations is calling on the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board to share its data.
Information Technology Systems Ontario (ITSO) has launched a campaign to propose a new arrangement between the organization and TRREB when it comes to data sharing and access to MLS listing content.
In a letter sent to TRREB in early April, ITSO president Michelle Wobst and Donna Bacher, president of the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington (which is not a member of ITSO but has a data-sharing agreement with it), said increased access to MLS listing content is more important now than ever before.
Because of the pandemic and soaring house prices, the letter says Realtors need total access to MLS content, particularly since real estate activity is taking place outside of jurisdictions. The letter referred to the current situation as “unacceptable.”
“We want to be able to provide Realtors with access to all the MLS listing content they need regardless of whether they join an ITSO member association, RAHB or TRREB. Our hope is that TRREB feels the same way because we know TRREB also has responded to the demand for regionalization and consolidation of information sources,” said the letter.
In a previous statement, ITSO said it believes Ontarians should have access to all the MLS listing content in the province.
“It isn’t a matter of ‘who has the most’ since most of the data is not good enough – even 99 per cent of the data does not help the consumer if the home they wanted is within that missing one per cent,” says the statement. “ITSO believes that anything less than 100 per cent is a failure to all stakeholders. Consumers need this information to make an informed decision. Realtors need this information to fulfill their fiduciary duties to their clients and serve them to the standard they require,” said ITSO.
ITSO has 21 member associations directly sharing its MLS system and six with a data sharing agreement. There are 37 real estate boards in Ontario.
Wobst told REM that this issue has been around for a number of years but “it’s multiplied” recently because of the pandemic.
“More and more Realtors are going outside of their main trading area where they hold their license,” she says. “So for instance, a TRREB member from Toronto might come out to Cambridge, they might go out to Barrie, they might go down to Woodstock, they might go to Niagara Falls, to sell houses.
“They don’t have access to our data and we don’t have access to theirs. Some of them may pay to put that listing onto the board where that house’s jurisdiction lies. For instance, for a Niagara house, they might put it on the system or they might not.” So she says the only way a Realtor or the public can find the listing is by going to realtor.ca or to a VOW website that is getting data from different sources.
“There’s a lack of complete data,” says Wobst. “There’s also increased costs. For instance, if a TRREB member came to Cambridge and they wanted to sell a house here, they don’t have access to any historical data . . . to provide proper advice in my opinion. You should have all of that data to be able to advise your clients.”
Wobst says most Realtors in Ontario would prefer just one MLS system with all the data and not have to worry about paying to subscribe to another board – they would prefer one fee on one system with all the data.
“At this point we would love to at least do a data share with (TRREB),” she says. “If we had a data share with them it would alleviate a lot of Realtor expenses. Right now the real estate associations are making money off of the extra subscriber fees and the inter-board listings but the Realtors are still paying to do all of that.
“The other issue is the consumer having to look to different public websites or these VOWs to be able to access data and that just seems silly when we have the capability to do something more inclusive and be able to provide the data.”
John DiMichele, CEO of TRREB, said the board is always in discussions with other boards in the province.
“We’re an open board,” he says. “We have opportunities for people to subscribe to our system and we have reciprocal subscription agreements with other boards . . . We’ve got a lot of dual members,” he says.
“We also participate in the inter-board opportunity…. TRREB is open to all those things… Really it’s one marketplace now. We do offer partnerships and we’ve done a lot of presentations to other boards that want to know how to become a TRREB partner board.
“I’m always willing to talk and try to come up with solutions that make a lot of sense.”
TRREB recently announced plans to launch a new “multi-list” technology platform for its more than 60,000 TRREB and partner-board members.
“We want to be a purveyor of choice – something that will create that opportunity for innovation and for people to choose how they want to use the system and customize it for a brokerage or a member or an association. It’s not necessarily one size fits all,” DiMichele told REM.
In recently years, a key priority for TRREB has making sure the data is secure and not being stolen or provided to third-party websites by members without permission.