A BC website has started publishing local home-sales data, including previous sale prices, in a move one industry expert describes as likely “rogue.”
Zealty.ca is working with BC-based brokerage Holywell Properties to publish transaction data scraped from the proprietary MLS systems of real estate boards in Greater Vancouver, Fraser Valley, and Chilliwack.
The data launch, which Holywell promoted in a news release sent to Livabl today, comes after last month’s Supreme Court of Canada decision not to hear the Toronto Real Estate Board’s appeal to keep home sales data private.
The decision was the latest in a series of legal blows to Canada’s largest real estate board, which has been battling to keep a lid on sales data since 2011, arguing releasing sold pricing data and other information is a violation of privacy.
From August 23rd, TREB was given 60 days to make the Greater Toronto Area data available, upholding a previous Competition Tribunal decision.
That inspired Adam Major, Holywell Property’s managing broker and CEO of Zealty, to work to publish the same information in BC.
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“The Supreme Court of Canada has basically said we can do this, so we’re taking a position that we should do it,” he tells Livabl.
“To be able to see what homes are actually selling for is key if you’re looking to buy or looking to sell,” he says, noting buyers in Nova Scotia and the US already have access to previous selling prices.
Since May, consumers have been able to access the selling history of Vancouver homes by using the Property Insights feature on REW.ca.
However, unlike Zealty, which uses MLS numbers, REW has a partnership to get data from BC Assessment, a spokesperson confirmed.
The difference, notes Major, is that an MLS transaction is recorded when a realtor inputs it while BC Assessment transactions are recorded when the property title is entered.
Photo: Zealty’s home page.
“Usually that’s… two to three months after a sale completes,” says Major. “Our prices are generally going to be well in advance of anything on BC Assessment, so ours is basically, you know, an up to date indication of what’s happening in the market — what homes are selling for today, not three months ago.”
Major is concerned that he could face pushback from local boards for jumping the gun on releasing the data, since the local boards have not announced publically how they will treat data in light of the decision from Canada’s highest court.
“We could get a cease and desist letter from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver,” says Major. “They haven’t hold us to stop yet,” he notes, saying he had requested — and was denied — the data from the board previously.
The benefit of being an early adopter and attracting more eyeballs made the risk easier to stomach as well.
The process of gathering the data and mapping it on Zealty took about a year, but now anyone can reap the benefits of that effort by creating an account on the website.
Once registered, users will be able to access a home’s history going four years back, and see all its listing photos from the past year. Zealty is updated nightly with the latest reported transactions, and there are plans to eventually expand across the province.
One observer suggests Major might be met with some opposition, at least for the time being. “This Zealty person is probably going rogue, and I imagine he’s going to get roped in to wait for this,” Ian Martin, director of industry development and partnerships for REW.ca, tells Livabl.
“In the end,” continues Martin, who hasn’t seen the site before, “Everything’s going to be open and available to everyone.”
Many in the industry expect it’s not a matter of if, but when, other real estate boards are compelled to make close-held data more accessible, a ripple effect of the Supreme Court decision.
REBGV confirmed today that it has no intention of fighting the Competition Tribunal’s ruling and is currently in talks with the Competition Bureau to understand how it can update its policy to comply with the law.
“We have no intention of fighting this,” REBGV President Phil Moore tells Livabl. “Change is coming soon,” he adds, confirming current policy is under review.
Until then, however, it appears Zealty may be in violation of REBGV own rules for members. Moore was not aware of the website, but he explains, “If they’re using a realtor’s code [for the MLS system], that would violate our rules.”