Embrace change rather than fear it. That’s the message some mortgage brokers have for realtors feeling the pinch of the Competition Bureau’s efforts to loosen the real estate industry’s stranglehold on the Multiple Listing Service.
“The times they are a changing,” said Richard Samuels, president and principal broker of Obsidian Mortgage in Scarborough, Ont. “Today consumers want greater access to information. Realtors can give them access to MLS and win business by offering better value-added services.”
A Competition Tribunal on Monday, which is officially meant to determine if the Toronto Real Estate Board has engaged in anti-competitive practices, also raised the issue of whether real estate boards across the country should maintain their control of the MLS.
Tribunal chair Madam Justice Sandra Simpson on Tuesday, rejected a constitutional challenge of the proceedings by TREB of the hearings saying the challenge was filed too late and could disrupt ongoing hearings.
TREB maintains it was worried about possible privacy violations would occur if MLS data such as sold data, mortgage information and even, say, lockbox codes that may be noted on listings were released to the public.
Samuels liked MLS to Carfax, the online site for vehicle history reports.
“Years ago car buyers just took the auto salesman’s word that the vehicle they’re buying in road worthy,” Samuels said. “Today many people wouldn’t think of putting down money for a car without a Carfax report – and the consumers and market is all the better for it.”
That said, Samuels stressed that many good Realtors provide consumers with critical services that go beyond having a property listed on MLS. "They access the market, advice owners on preparing their property for sale and help buyers scope out the most suitable home," he said. "I don't think it's advisable, especially for a first time buyer or seller, to go it alone without a Realtor."
Control of MLS means a great deal to Realtors because as much as 90 per cent of the market is listed on the service and having exclusive access to it means consumers have to avail of the service of realtors, according to Jim Tourloukis, independent mortgage broker at Advent Mortgage in Unionville, Ont.
“I think realtors are worried that if the MLS is opened to the public it will eventually shrink their commissions,” said Tourloukis.“Once MLS is opened up watch their (realtors’) 5 per cent fees drop.”
“I don’t blame Realtors for wanting to hang onto that control and their 5 per cent. But it’s not real it’s a monopoly. They should let go and let market forces and competition decide what fees they should be paid,” he said.