Recently, the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board’s CEO, John DiMichele, made an historic announcement that is unfortunately mostly fluff with no substance. The article reads like 90 per cent of tech industry announcements – faster, easier, cheaper.

Story continues below

So what? The writer of the article was attempting to speak about things to which they have demonstrated no understanding. It also reads like classic tech-vapourware.

The MLS isn’t so much broken as it is ancient. It’s not 20-year-old technology as DiMichele said. It’s based on 1990s technology – 30 to 35-years-old. Would you want to be using a mobile phone that’s even five-years-old?

There are clues in the article, however. Setting aside the nepotistic old-boy network of hands in each other’s pockets (Teranet, Stratus, TRREB), blockchain is a game changer. Embracing this technology is essential for TRREB and its ilk to survive in the next 10 years. Making dismissive comments like “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” are the same phrases uttered by long-dead entities that manufactured typewriters, slide rules, VHS, optical media and countless other obsolete technologies. Even Netscape Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect, which each owned majority share in their respective markets, are just more gravestones adorning the tech info-highway.

DiMichele should have said that blockchain will do for any type of asset what the original Internet protocol (TCP/IP) did for information exchange. Blockchain will redefine how real assets (actually any asset – a painting, vehicle, single song, movie) are protected and exchanged. It will significantly reduce the need for the many people currently involved in each real estate transaction who are mostly there for a single purpose … to provide a “trusted” environment for the exchange and financing of items of value.

But blockchain is a “peer-to-peer” technology, meaning it’s intended to connect buyers directly with sellers. If so, perhaps TRREB might survive the technology sea change by morphing its MLS into a Zillow-like service (Zillow announced it was converting to blockchain in September 2018) but where does that leave Realtors? What will be the Realtor’s role in this peer-to-peer service? Such a service will particularly impact insurance and especially mortgage agents who may find themselves without a purpose at all. Real estate lawyers may well be in a better position to exploit the benefits of blockchain than Realtors.

With the dramatic multi-million-dollar loss of TRREB’s legal battle against the Competition Bureau, TRREB is slowly being forced to relinquish its hold on real estate data and information. Many Realtors are simply gatekeepers of MLS information today. What will the artificial intelligence capability of this system be? Will it replace these gatekeepers? (That’s a rhetorical question).

Many other questions abound about what TRREB thinks its own future role will be. DiMichele seems to suggest that TRREB is somehow going to be a market leader in providing this technology and related services to other entities. TRREB’s track record hardly supports such a vision. Teranet, despite its uncharacteristic control of “parcel fabric” data is still only a provincial corporation. Is this triumvirate capable of taking on mega-corporations who have all expressed keen interest in real estate transactions including Microsoft, Google, Zillow and Bell? Even individual brokerage companies like Cushman & Wakefield and Royal LePage are developing and building their own proptech (property technology) capabilities.

Working with the land registry offices to migrate all real estate assets to blockchain is absolutely essential. It appears Teranet and TRREB are attempting to preserve their “middleman” status in this process but what true value-add are they bringing to the table that the government and mega-I.T. companies can’t do a hundred times better?

There are many more questions like these. DiMichele answered none of them. TRREB is supposed to be a not-for-profit association dedicated to representing the best interests of its members. I don’t see that protection of member interests today, and I have no reason to believe that the leadership that TRREB so desperately needs will evolve in time to steer the ship into the technology tsunami heading our collective way and through it into a bright future of blue skies and clear sailing.

15 COMMENTS

  1. By the sound of experience, some of the commentators are probably as ancient as me. My first cell-phone had three ‘corded-phone-size’ components 1. The phone itself with a battery pack inside, 2. A spare battery, and, 3. A charger. Bulky and cumbersome – but, boy, what a change from the belt-clip ‘pager’ scrolling a ten digit phone number only. (Doctors and Sears technicians had to have one). Now I could answer my calls timely. A quarter page two sided b&w photo-listing had ALL the necessary STARTING info I, and my clients needed. Including 6% commission, no HST or GST, 50-50 split. I was privy to be a tiny part of millions of sales.
    I have stated earlier – The Only Constant is CHANGE. Along the way, some will fumble, fall, get hurt, or hurt others. Due diligence is protecting your back also. I rest my case.

  2. I usually just read articles and comments posted here but I have to contribute.
    In mid-summer of 1981 I asked advice from a developer (a family acquaintance) on how he thought was a way to sell homes in a market that had interest rate of 18%. His reply was simple – “you’re not selling real estate, you’re selling financing”. So, in the following year I sold 3 homes with $1.00 down with the assumption of the existing mortgage while the vendor paid the commission with cash. 4 other homes were sold with interest rate buy-downs which facilitated financing for the buyers. 2 other homes were sold with the vendor taking back all or part of the mortgage.
    In all these transactions agents, lawyers and bankers (no mortgage brokers at the time) had to figure out how all this was going to work and use finesse and ingenuity.
    In more recent days, buyers have been refused financing by their preferred institutions only to have a good mortgage broker re-package their application and have the same banks “bid” on the business.
    Technology has done a great deal to facilitate diligent real estate agents, bankers, brokers and lawyers but it does nothing but spew out formulas which make life easier for lenders and tech companies and insurers.
    Ask an algorithm what you might do and the answer will be “you what you last did”.
    Understanding and finesse are valuable assets that are deeply underestimated by automatons and their proponents.
    BTW, I have a number of old phones which i use now and again in case of theft when I travel and they work well.

    • After having put my licence on hold for medical reasons and after 35 years being licenced/registered of course I no longer had MLS access.

      I had a most interesting experience recently while checking out properties on the Net, having no other means of access, experiencing what the public goes through. Due to the information sharing system dozens of agents were promoting a particular listing as today’s information-sharing system permits.

      Each agent had substantially different personal comments on the subject property. Some for a simple example showed a form stating c/vac “no” while others showed c/vac “yes.” Since all the flow of information comes from the actual initial listing information, how does the “variables in information” happen.

      Each agent, dozens of them on the Net, had done personal individual virtual tours of the address. Hard to imagine the patience the sellers must have had to allow dozens of agents from various unrelated brokerages to trod through their home carrying cameras and video equipment, lighting tripods and other production needed tools (thinking this would help to sell their home). I couldn’t help wonder what the owner’s property insurance covered, in case someone tripped over production cables or damaged their home some way.

      Others apparently had hired professionals to create lead-generating videos capturing the attention of would-be buyers in the given price-range, no intention of selling the subject property; using it as a lead-generator. Each video highlighting very different attributes of the specific listing.

      Then I hit upon the best presentation of the property; the most interesting and important piece of information… provided by none other than zoocasa.

      The subject property information going all the way back to 2008 history, page by page listing information all in one place. Visible with a quick click to open the file. How many times the address had been listed over the years, for how much, and dates the listings had expired or had been cancelled by the owners. Listed with various agents. What a wealth of information available to the public.

      I had never given much thought to zoocasa and how they operate. But this was certainly an eye-opener.
      ===
      Peter, back in the 1980 days of Vendor rate buy-downs and VTB’s, there were many creative ways to sell a house. MLS listings were required to state the seller’s personal finance obligations registered against the subject property (a total invasion of privacy that lived in the MLS catalogues for decades) and a buyer’s intended financing arrangements had to be spelled out in finite detail in an offer, subject to where the buyer intended to do business, banking institution name, amount of sought mortgage, interest rate protection, and all finance terms and conditions. Some sellers wanted to know where the buyer worked and how long working there. It was indeed an interesting time.

      I had one particular self-employed couple in the medical-related field whose bank took three weeks to get back to their clients and turned them down before we ever viewed property.

      A mortgage broker did exactly what you said: took them away from their existing bank and put them back with their same bank with a much more attractive plan, and of course he even got paid by the bank. How ridiculous is that? But that kind of situation played out often.

      Thanks for a valuable contribution to the REM topic. Readers need to hear your thoughts more often.

      Respectfully
      Carolyne L 🍁

        • I would compare banks to a bartender who takes all tips as long he is sober but throw him out when he is drunk and a nuisance. Banks will lend all the money as long you paying on time. The day you default, they will throw you out of your home.

  3. Blockchain is the panacea of all life so everyone tells us. However unregulated it is at this point in time. But the bigger point here is that 99.9999999% of consumers, as well as the general population, has no idea what Blockchain is. Bell has been trying to gain a position in the real estate industry for over 30 years now and has been largely unsuccessful in their attempts. So is this just another failed attempt? Time will tell. The writer states that Zillow was converting to blockchain back in 2018. It is now 2021, almost half way through this year. Why has Zillow not taken over? I hear very little, actually zero, about Zillow the past two years. The writer provides the answer to why blockchain may not be the “game changer’ he believes it to be. “provides a trusted environment”. Blockchain may be a secure technology but will not replace the trust between peers. As a matter of fact it may make it worse. Technologies have evolved but we still type letters. We still watch movies and T.V and a slide rule is an ingenious invention and still very effective for those smart enough to know how to use one. There is one factor that very few seem to acknowledge in the equation of high tech solutions. Humans. What ever happens in the future will be what people want. Not what technology can offer. A home is not a commodity that is simply exchanged or traded. A home is filled with emotion and character. It is part of a community made up of people. The search for a new home is an exciting journey that people , in my opinion, still love to travel. And for the record my smart phone is over five years old and still as effective as it was when I first got it. Smart phone technology has not really advanced that far in the past five years.

    • Great response David.

      It is being realized that smart phone addiction is actually making kids dumber these days; no need to think anymore. Just click and read the answer—don’t study or write about it—and the info. goes right out the window. Retention? WTF does that mean? The info. tries to enter into the short term memory depository but exits the skull before being processed into the long term memory bank. Kids are becoming Dumb and Dumber…except on their devices.

      My flip-phone is well over ten years old. Kids see it and say “Look! He’s got a f—-n’ ghetto phone!” (Fill in the blank if you can kiddies) It works great. So does my f—-n’ ghetto brain.

      I see they’re not selling those f—-n’ Smart cars for dumb drivers any more. Imagine crashing into another vehicle in one of those turbo-charged golf karts whilst gazing at one’s smart phone at 100 km. per hour. It’d be like being trapped in a bowling pin whilst being clobbered by a behemoth bowling ball.

      • Brian are you still using a double floppy IBM computer from 1986 and a Pitney Bowes 500 pound fax machine.

        • Hi David:

          I answered your query earlier, but Jim the-editor-guy’s relatively low bar of content-acceptability kicked in again and, surprise, my post was banished to his special drawer of flammable materials. It was something to the effect that my only experience with double floppies didn’t pass the “that’s terrible!” test. She was fast, but she warnt no Intercontinental Ballistic Missile.

          Re the P.B. 500 lb. fax machine: I waterproofed one and use it as my fishing boat anchor. It gives me great photo copies of narcissistic passing fish stopping and posing for a shot, then flicking their tales at my bait and buggering off. One came back twice more, the first time with lipstick on, the second time with my chewed up bait in its mouth.

        • Your smartphone can unlock your car in your Toronto garage while you are in Florida and turn on all the lights in the house to let outsiders think you are home, but why can’t it access your desktop and allow you to pull up a Word doc on your hard drive from which you can copy and paste a segment reference into an email you are sending?

          Carolyne L 🍁

  4. TRREB appears determined to bring blockchain technology together with real estate trade, more to further differentiate itself from the rest of the industry in Canada than for any practical or membership enhancing reasons.

    The cautions with blockchain or cryptocurrency as an asset class or currency are, it is totally unregulated. It ignores the fundamental rules of investing. Its value is intangible, simply riding on hope and expectation much like the shell dot-com companies of the late ’90s that ran up and eventually fell through the floor inside of a few days.

    Unlike a traditional (registered & insured) bricks and mortar lender, If during a real estate transaction, you have an issue while using blockchain currency there is literally nowhere and no one to turn to for any sort of support or protection and no one to hold liable or accountable. This is completely the opposite of the security and protection, which don’t forget, is our industry’s underlying and sustaining value to consumers.

    • Mike … you’re confusing blockchain with cryptocurency. They’re two separate and antonymous things. I believe your comments are related to unregulated and volatile cryptocurrencies. Both were used to create BitCoin, the granddaddy of cryptocurrencies.

      Blockchain can be thought of as a database and database infrastructure definition (“schema”) and has no dependency on cryptocurrency.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here