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.

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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.

Michelle Wobst
Michelle Wobst

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
John DiMichele

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.

35 COMMENTS

  1. My top 10 list…

    1. I’m not saying it’s easy to implement, but it makes logical sense to have one MLS system for all the Realtors. We certainly look foolish sometimes when a buyer asks about a new for sale sign they drove by, but we can’t find it on our local MLS system because the out of town listing Realtor has decided to save money and not post it on that Board. That posting should be mandatory, and one MLS would solve that.

    2. I could never understand why we’re making it so easy for the consumer to find listings on their own. Once upon a time they had to come to ‘us’ and ask, via a website, a for sale sign, a newspaper ad, a duty agent, etc. Now, they just sit back and go to realtor.ca.

    3. I could never understand why brokerages are allowed to share their listing information with other brokerages on websites. This collection of information between 4, 5, or more offices just creates a mini search system for consumers, which seems okay, but to me, creates a lot of confusion. Obviously, the consumer will not have access to all the listings available, and it appears at a glance that all the listings they are seeing are represented by the brokerage of the website they’re on. I think it’s even worse when a Realtor from one of the brokerages now puts the same search system on their personal website. So now it appears ‘they’ are representing all of the homes, when obviously that’s not the case. Pretty sure we’re not supposed to misrepresent, misguide, or lead the public to something that isn’t true. This looks terrible to me.

    4. I certainly don’t like these 3rd party sites buying into, or grabbing all of the information from our MLS, and splashing it on their own pages. It just seems so confusing to the consumer now.

    5. I pay fees for the tools on our MLS system, which include setting up buyers to receive automatic listings, when new ones come aboard. I shouldn’t have to set myself up on realtor.ca to receive these listings, and others, so I don’t miss any opportunities.

    6. Does anyone refer business anymore? Or do you only do so when it’s cross country?

    7. Why is everyone so greedy? TRREB holding its data is all about extra money, for out of board posting, and non-member fees. You worked fine when you had 30,000 members, and now its 60,000. You’re not making enough extra money already?

    8. Even though off topic… Why do our insurance rates, and renewal fees, go up every year when the number of Realtors increases every year?

    9. Even though off topic… I could never understand why it’s considered multiple representation when two Realtors from the same brokerage are doing a deal together, one on the sell side, and one on the buy side. To me, multiple representation is when the selling Realtor has found the buyer for the home, and is now working on behalf of both parties.

    10. The word ‘co-operation’ is a key word in the English language. When everyone does this, then the world is a better place. Seriously, why is everyone making this so hard.

  2. DiMichele misses the point by a wide margin. It is not about TRREB allowing realtors to join TRREB. Does it make sense for. Niagara Realtor to have to join TRREB to access information in Niagara. And that is the problem. A TRREB realtor lists a property in Niagara but does not bother to post that listing on the Niagara MLS system. So that property is missed. These “Gap Listings” are the issue. It is not necessarily having access to Toronto listings. The solutions are simple if you have willing participants.

    • Oh, I would say OREA is paying very close attention. That leaves us with the Real Estate Boards……. loss of Egos, Power, Income Revenue.

  3. Considering TRREB does have shared agreements with other boards is this an issue? I’d be happy to see what is proposed and especially a provincial MLS portal like realtor.ca as a result.

    But this argument is a strawman:
    “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.”

    since it also means FSBOs, New builds, exclusive sales make it less than 100% and a failure to all stakeholdes.

  4. Finally we are going to move towards 1 system.

    These are the reasons we need this.

    Problem #1-Lost/Incomplete Data,
    properties are being listed by other board members and not being inputed into the board the property is located in.

    Problem #2- Disregard For Members Costs/Expenses, members should not have to join multiple boards to do their work properly.

    Problem #3-Inefficiency, members should not have to sort through multiple sites to collect up to date and accurate data to help their clients.

    • In addition, when we finally get to 1 MLS system for all Ontario Realtors, I prefer the Stratus over Matrix. In my experience of working with Stratus and Matrix for over 5 years, I find the Stratus system is top notch.

  5. There must be only one MLS system we are licensed realtors for the whole province of Ontario so why we should not have access to all properties throughout the province. We pay RECO CREA OREA TRREB fees and insurance and we can see any data since they removed the Connect system.

    There must be one MLS system with one fee for the whole province of Ontario. This must be changed the sooner rather than later because it is long overdue. I again emphasize that there must be ONLY one MLS system that’s it!!

  6. Cameron Nolan’s comments above are right on. Cameron has seen this from the inside of Organized Real Estate (ORE) and served his board in many capacities including President. I had the same honour in 2019 and had hoped that we could form a partnership with TRREB to ensure that our members had comprehensive data for our own area.

    At this point, it is my fervent belief that ORE will either 1) step up and form the necessary partnership with TRREB for the benefit of all Realtors members, or 2) become increasingly irrelevant as TRREB continues to gain prominence with its various platforms that serve both its members and the public (i.e. https://onlistings.trreb.ca/searchlistings).

  7. Let’s take this one step further – release all listing information from all boards to the general public! (Owner’s names excepted).

  8. The above comments are noteworthy. However, there are some practical difficulties. 35 years as a Real Estate Practitioner tells me that some members believe that inundating a buyer or seller with millions of pieces of information is the ONLY WAY to serve them. So, they create unnecessary data fields. That takes up enormous space. The data fields get helter-skelter. From 40 years ago, when I used DB, DBI, DBII etc., to this date I have found no easy way to transfer data from various boards to a simple spread sheet. Therefore CMA’s are hit and miss. RECO and the lawyers would say ‘guilty as charged’ because we ‘ought to know’. (By the way, even financial institutions with tons of finances have similar problems). Unless there is uniformity of data fields, uniformity of terminology, and style (i.e., yyyy/mm/dd or mm/dd/yyyy, etc., etc.), the concept of ONE MLS is only a concept.

  9. Yes…consolidate…make it very easy for a large multinational to sweep in and buy it up…much simpler to just give Zolo the information it seeks for free…in one bite

  10. The path to one board, one MLS® and one lobbying group for Ontario is so very simple. Consolidate.

    Private sector amalgamations, buyouts and consolidation occurs routinely. It is routine because decisions are made by ‘share capital’ leadership whose authority and organizational structure mandate doing the best for the shareholders (members in ORE, of course!). Make all ORE share capital organizations and consolidation will occur faster than a speeding bullet.

    And consolidation brings profit and efficiency.

    Pointing fingers at others is not a solution, nor is it (respectfully) a means to the end. Holding onto control because local associations have a place in service to local members is not the reason to hold off.

    Some years ago a respected ORE leader once said, great to see the smaller associations joining a controlling larger ORE association and at the same time aghast at the suggestion since every ORE association in Ontario is smaller than it, why are they not all joining TREB?

    There are real problems in how our professional service is affected by the myriad and disconnected decisions of 37 independently governed local real estate associations and one more for OREA and another for CREA. There re real outside influencers with much more power than the 39 mostly disconnected arrangements in Ontario ORE. Notwithstanding wonderful strides in data sharing, it remains impossible to adequately represent the interest of the individual REALTOR® as dissent from one or more corners is enough to weaken any position. And that truth is further exacerbated when you consider our collective wealth held by ORE is of such significance that if controlled by one group would wield significant power that cannot be presently harnessed.

    ITSO may be a saviour, except it is an association of associations. All of us REALTORS® in the province of Ontario have no direct say in its mandate, vision and goals. Not surprising that the 50k REALTOR® members of TREB like that they have a direct voice and vote on matters of concern to them, and that their voice and vote has a measure of influence on the provincial framework that we in every other area of the province can only hope for. Not surprising the TREB members do not show a desire to become part of ITSO, even so as they may wish to find beneficial shared data agreements.

    I do not blame TREB for its independent stance. Its CEO has said clearly, they have in place several means for data sharing with the individual REALTOR® or brokerages.

    This further thought my sound as criticism of ITSO. It is not. ITSO and its leadership have attempted to bring justice to the needs of our profession. Unfortunately it is misguided in the approach, IMO. The TREB message about how it serves the shared data needs message does not seem to resonate correctly with the rest of the province. So a letter is drafted to to TREB to remind them of the importance of province wide shared date to the individual professional…..as if TREB does not already know this. And we do so sitting behind an organization that itself does not call as its members the individual REALTOR®.

    To negotiate, one needs creativity, a clear profoundly achievable goal, and the strength of money and influence.

    If one were the doctor consulting on the health of ORE in Ontario, you would offer two possible prescriptions: create a province wide organization of REALTORS® or consolidate into OREA all of the smaller than TREB ORE Associations with one governance leadership, one balance sheet, one income and expense arrangement, a few key directors including outside directors OR join TREB. Health of the profession is the outcome from either of these approaches, although the more I think about it the latter is perhaps the least costly.

  11. Makes sense to have one MLS system for Ontario.
    If we are “all in this together” then let’s have one system so we Realtors can do our job!

  12. Solving this issue SHOULD be OREA’s one and only task. First OREA needs a mandate (from boards repping 75% of members) to pursue the possibility of ONE MLS for Ontario. Including revenue+expense-sharing and member benefits — this may look like MLB talking to the NY Yankees initially, but “regular members” working w buyers/sellers in the field WANT it, are PAYING for it and (so far) have had very little input into the management of the asset(s) the board(s) seem to think that the board(s) own.

  13. This is absolutely a requirement and it’s quite frankly embarrassing that we can’t serve our clients effectively anywhere they need our services. TRREB members are now conducting 30 to 40 percent of the transactions in our area and are understandably asking for local data. We are certainly not the only market they are moving into this aggressively. I’m surprised that those members are not pushing much harder for this to come to fruition from the TRREB executive. One MLS system is the way we must go and it certainly doesn’t take away from the services local boards offer their own members tailored specifically to their area, or have anything to do with your own local GR efforts. This continued protectionism and control of data is what is going to continue to erode our position in this highly competitive and quickly changing landscape.

  14. We should have one MLS. The only reason we currently don’t is money. TRREB keeping their data separate forces more members to join to gain access. Instead of looking at more revenue for themselves TRREB should focus on how to better serve the members. With currently 60,000 members we should have the best technology available to support our businesses.

  15. I am at a loss as to why realtors from Toronto or other areas would want to go into areas they have no familiarity with. Aren’t Realtors supposed to have knowledge and protect the public? How can a realtor from Toronto know anything about Niagara Falls? Were are good schools, low crime rates, high water tables, areas where there are a lot of drugs? I wonder how are Realtors really protecting the public if you are allowing them to do this?

    • Annette, my main market area is SW Mississauga/Oakville. Most of the listings in my area get listed on TRREB, but some do not. Because of this fragmentation, I have to pay for memberships to both, log in to both platforms every day to see all the listings…it’s quite ridiculous. I got all excited the other day when I realized my membership in Mississauga gives me access to the Prospects app. I spent a ton of time customizing and branding the app, sent the link to all my clients, only to realize today that the listings that aren’t interboarded and are only on TRREB don’t show up! It’s a useless tool without all the information, and I’m doing a disservice to my clients if I’m not giving them ALL listings within a market! I agree, wholeheartedly, that OREA needs to make this priority #1 to fix.

  16. In my view, there should always be a place for local Real Estate Boards to serve the membership and community. MLS is no longer a local matter. It is embarrassing to our profession that our consumer clients have access to better and more information than we do as paying members. Our clients inform us of properties available in our local market. Ridiculous!! They find properties on Realtor.ca. Our typical unfortunate response: “Sorry, that property is listed on another Real Estate Board and we do not have access to that Board.” In order to access the information, we would have to join numerous Boards and pay annual membership fees for each. It goes further and a personal pet peeve of mine: if a Realtor in your office wanted to join DRAR or TRREB to gain access, every member in your office must join or you will be declined membership. At BALL Real Estate we have had to open three new offices as Dual offices through our Board and RECO to accommodate this archaic rationale.

  17. This has driven me nuts the past few years. We use to have access through the connect system on Stratus but they got rid of it. The Barrie Board and TRREB shared information for like 8 months a few years ago and then it stopped and all access was taken away. Incredible frustrating when you live in the border of the 2 boards which are having a childish spat. Only promising thing is there are now more sales on TRREB than there are on BDAR in Barrie for many months now. Simcoe County has a ridiculous amount of boards for a small area, 5 in total.

  18. One trusted board is the only way to serve the public to the level deserved and fend off competing less engaged shiny new marketing models. However, an ethical realtor must balance access to data with the practicality and ability to serve their services mandate under agency, so not every available area is a option for the agent to engage. One must recognize one’s professionalism limits.

  19. It’s not one MLS if there are 21 boards sharing data. In my opinion of of these boards are redundant in the first place. Data shares is not one board, and has added costs and issues. Why not actually make ONE MLS system everyone log in the same place. And have member from every municipality to oversee.

  20. one data base system – call it MLS if you wish makes total sense.
    we should have the data on properties we are licensed to list and sell.

    One real estate board is another thing. How realtors work in GTA, south west, Ottawa, east and the north is very different.

    There could be some amalgamation, but local boards are still vitial to our industry.

    Randy Beck
    Kingston

  21. One mls. If we are licensed to practice in the province, then we should be able to do that without having to join multiple boards to gain access to property information. The fees can be prohibitive with monthly board fees running into the hundreds of dollars per month.

  22. About time.
    The current system in place is extremely frustrating and maybe serving short sighted / vested interests, but definitely not the general population that deserves better.
    If things are left unchanged, the current system will end up suffering the same fate as the taxi and hotel industry.

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