Realtors hiding behind MLS - brokers

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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.

  • Mike Montague on 2012-09-13 1:05:38 AM

    Get back to the licensed Realtors in Ontario when you are comfortable with your sales date (which includes past client information) being handed out willie nellie to the public and your competition. In the mean time, stick to what you know best.

  • David on 2012-09-13 2:15:15 AM

    Sorry but the MLS is nothing like Carfax. The MLS is a marketing system paid for and maintained by Realtors. Therefore, they should have the right to control its use.
    Also, it is not a monopoly. Home sellers are able to advertise on Kijiji, and many other for sale by owner sites, and they have been for years.
    This will bring about the end to the MLS as most Realtors will opt out of using it and instead advertise their listings on their own sites and franchise sites like, etc.

  • Jay on 2012-09-13 2:23:54 AM

    why any broker would go on record to say anything about realtors and a monopoly is not something that is a wise business decision should you go and solicit realtors.

  • Chad on 2012-09-13 3:28:07 AM

    I totally disagree.

    What people forget is that Realtor's Built this system. Realtor's pay sometimes $500 per month to maintain the system why should they be forced to share it. Will FSBO sign up for a 1 year contract and pay $5000 to access the system? Will homeowners be bound by MLS rules?

    Also Realtor's are liable if the data is wrong. Will a FSBO accept unlimited future liability? Will these FSBO companies accept that for $39? I doubt it.

    Why not force Apple to share it operating system? They stifle competition. Jobs said he wanted to see the death of Android.... Why is that ok?

    Why not force GM to let you use their label and build your own car? Is it fair they spent millions in R&D to build a car and not give it you?

    Stop whining and crying Realtors can charge 5%. If the market cannot justify they commission then it will drop.

    **** Contrary to popular belief, low rate and low commission real estate brokers have bee n around for as long as we have had Realtors. MinCom in the 80s and 90s was charging 1% I think.

    What companies are fight for is the right to make the MLS like Kijiji, where anyone can post anything, with no repercussions.

    Why restrict people from calling them selves lawyers, or doctors...

    The MLS was built and paid for as a private system... Do we want to live in a country where we can forced to share something that built and paid for by private enterprise. I don't.

  • David Larock on 2012-09-13 3:32:22 AM

    I disagree that opening up MLS will automatically cause realtor commissions to to drop. A good realtor is worth their weight in gold.

  • Ed Novak, Real Estate Broker on 2012-09-13 3:33:50 AM

    It is clear that the quoted mortgage brokers are completely clueless and are doing nothing but propagating ignorant stereotypes. First of all, there is plenty of information out there and the public uses the Internet quite extensively prior to making the call. Releasing any additional information will not provide any benefit to the public, yet jeopardise other's privacy. The only onces who will benefit from the break up of MLS are discount brokers who provide strictly listing services. Furthermore, anyone who claims that real estate agents ALWAYS charge 5% needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Im not saying that it doesn't happen, but commission are negotiable just like everything else. One last thing - if a mortgage broker is comparing the MLS or our industry to used cars sales, then shame on him. It is insulting and detrimental and shows how well he appreciates us (people that should be referrign business to him) and his clients (he thinks they are dumb). One thing for sure, I, for one, will NEVER refer any business to these individuals or their brokerages.

  • John Dearin RPA,. AMP. on 2012-09-13 3:38:28 AM

    How to destroy your relationship with real estate agents/brokers, by Richard Samuels

  • JM on 2012-09-13 4:09:56 AM

    This monopoly of the MLS system is way way long over due for a change. The public has a right to this information, it is only a shame that our broken down system has taken so long to finally correct and change this setup. This is why there is a competition bureau in the first place. To correct this for and in the interest of all the public/people.

  • Omer Quenneville on 2012-09-13 4:32:15 AM

    This shouldn't be about anything else other than private property. The MLS system is private, belongs to us, we build and paid for it. on the other hand, is more trouble than it is worth, lets get rid of that and get back to business. CREA should never have been allowed to get into the marketing business.

  • Janet on 2012-09-13 4:39:25 AM

    I am a Mortgage Broker in Nova Scotia and work very closely with a team of realtors I respect and appreciate. I can only say the comments reflected in this article are by someone who is ignorant of Realtors and the MLS.

    MLS is a tool developed, perfected, maintained and paid for by realtors across the county for many years. Realtors are being asked/ordered to share this tool and all it's information with the public providing access to information they could be repremanded and fined for sharing under thier current licensing agreements. In the mortgage world, it would be the equivalent of RBC letting BMO come into it's branches and use their system. Ridiculous!!

  • Chad on 2012-09-13 5:05:15 AM

    Omer I love you reference to letting RBC into a BMO branch that is a perfect example.

  • Rajesh Kothari on 2012-09-13 5:09:02 AM

    I am a REALTOR ® and a Mortgage Agent. I totally disagree with the Mortgage Brokers who have commented in the article above. They are ignorant and clueless about how REALTOR”s work and the MLS System. The REALTOR's have created the MLS System and pay for it. If the competition bureau wants they are welcome to create and pay for a parallel system for the benefit the public – nobody is stopping them.
    Would Richard Samuel of Obsidian Mortgage and Jim Tourloukis, of Advent Mortgage sell their book of business for free or buy down mortgages to zero bps in commissions for the public good, would Coca Cola disclose their secret formula because more people have started drinking coke and can't afford it anymore.
    Both these mortgage should spend more time with their REALTOR Referral Sources to get to know more about this issue before commenting.

  • Thomas McBurney on 2012-09-13 5:54:48 AM

    If non realtors want to pay me back for the 25 of years of investing into this tool, then fine...otherwise, build your own. The next best solution...shut it down completely.

  • CH on 2012-09-13 6:52:24 AM

    Another example of brokers' opinions being interpreted as "news". This is supposed to be mortgagebrokernews... not

  • DB on 2012-09-13 9:30:49 AM

    You have heard it now many times, but let me make one point in addition:
    1. Service initiated, paid for, information generated by: realtors for realtors so they can provide a service to those wishing to sell. AND that Licensing, rules, conduct and education are MANDATORY in addition to E&O insurance which NO FSBO's carry.
    2. Giving away the information to: assessment authorities, city's and municipalities, other for profit companies for free, while we pay for services and information from those same groups is "stupid, insane.... because our information is everything to them and their's is only a small aspect of what realtors need" we should charge them accordingly.
    3. If it was not for the "THINKING BY CREA and the boards" that web based information would drive business TO realtors: the website "MLS.CA" has created this disaster and desire to open up the MLS information for everyone for little to no cost when: POINT 1 explains why it shouldn't be.

    SIMPLE SOLUTION: Take down MLS.CA and drive the customer back to requesting assistance when selling by hiring a professional he can choose to interview for the job a price he feels is fair and comfortable.

    4.ALL FSBO's and discount realtors can post on their sites for whatever price they wish to charge.
    5. Pay discounted brokers a selling commission = to the rate they are offering to full service, full fee realtors on their listings. Such that if a discounted broker offers a selling commission of 1% then when they go to sell another full service brokers listing who offers 2.5%, pay them only 1% and retain the other 1.5% or refund it back to the seller. Stop rewarding those who don't reward you.

  • Mike on 2012-09-13 11:01:16 PM

    Really mortgage broker news??? Shameful that you would even publish such an article. But I'm not entirely surprised. If for a moment people can separate themselves from their personal feelings of realtors and focus on what the real issue is here...the forced sharing of a business system built, maintained and paid for by a private group. A system that has created immense value and stability for many joint industries to rely on (banks, mortgage brokers, insurers, appraisers, lawyers, etc).

    Do you actually think this will be the case if this attack by the competition bureau is successful. I for one will not allow my property information to be accessible by anyone and everyone!

    When one goes into battle you quickly see who your allies and enemies are.

  • Jason on 2012-09-14 4:04:29 AM

    I cannot for the life of me understand why either mortgage broker would agree to be quoted in this article. it is suicide if you get any business from the realtor community.

  • Richard Samuels on 2012-09-14 5:09:05 AM

    I understand my comments have incurred quite the response from the realtor community.... My comments weren't meant to offend, the efforts a realtors but to remind them they're is more to the job than MLS! and if the rules change for MLS realtors and the industry will still adapt... And the realtor /real estate professional will realize the other value added services they can provide to their clients outside of MLS. I do regret any inconvenience experienced..

  • Suneel Bakshi on 2012-09-14 8:30:09 AM

    Being a Realtor I know how demanding & unpredictable is our profession.I have seen Realtors not making a cent for 3-4 months in a row but keep spending for their licening, marketing etc. Realtors have no medical,vacation, sevrance, pension etc. Average consumer thinks that a realtor makes $ 25,000.00 on a sale of $ 500,000.00. In reality most of time two Brokerages involved in each transaction and share commission which is hardly 5% anymore, rather 3.5% average. Home buying is always a single largest purcahse by a client and there are so much intricasies involved in this process right from legality, liablility, value of inevstment etc. We need some one professionaly trained to assist in all this not any jo blow discount brokeage and Web site. Actually this is not in the best intrest of the consumer. Would competion bureau allow unlicenced doctor or lawyer. They make very good money too.It seems like some companies wants to get into this busienss without investing time, education & money. I agree due to price increase the commission amount look higher but then appreciation put a lot money in consumers pocket so why this cry for an average 2% commission which is split between agent and the brokerage. Look at the value for the customer. People buy stocks, bonds through professional as well.

  • Nasim on 2012-09-15 3:22:52 AM

    I can't believe mortgage brokers vote against our MLS system. Do you know CMHC uses the very same system to approve your deals and you are able put food on the table for your family. Mortgage industry should thank Realtors for creating such a reliable system to process their deals without too much headaches. As for as the commission is concern, please do yourself a favour, do your research there is no 5% standard commission and don't embrace yourself...

  • Jeff Van de Vorst on 2012-09-15 5:08:48 AM

    As both a realtor and a mortgage agent, I have to say I am stunned by those in the industry that just don't get the value in MLS and organized real estate.
    In Canada we have one of the most stable real estate and banking systems in the world. We are the model that all other countries are looking at. I argue that this has a lot to do with our “organized real estate system”. Our system has created a highly reliable database of information that realtors, lenders, mortgage insurers and appraisers can rely on. These parties can rely on the data because they know that those who have loaded it into the system adhere to standard that ensures the data’s accuracy. Organized real estate is a system which generally results in properties being bought and sold for a reasonable approximation of fair market value. The system self perpetuates, in that Realtors representing sellers use the data to develop a listing price and Realtors representing a buyer use it to develop an offer price. Overpriced homes rarely sell these days and underpriced homes end up with multiple offers. Talk about efficiency.
    When a house is sold privately, lenders or mortgage insurers routinely call for an appraisal. Why? Because the home hasn’t been exposed to the market forces that ‘organized real estate’ bring to the table. I recently spoke to an appraiser who told me having to tell someone that the appraisal came in below the purchase is almost a daily occurrence on these private sales.
    Aren’t we lucky that we can get a mortgage approval in less than 4 hours? Take away that cohesive database of information supplied by Realtors and the timeframe may just expand to 4 days or worse.
    Aren’t we lucky that the risk premium that an investor in mortgage backed securities demands is only a couple of hundred basis points. Again, dismantle the efficient system of ‘organized real estate’ and that reliable database of information and what happens. The risk premium goes up and we pay more for mortgages. As well the premium that must be paid to the mortgage insurance companies will undoubtedly rise. How happy will the completion bureau be then.

  • LanceH on 2012-09-16 2:38:10 AM

    I disagree with forcing realtors to open up this system. This is a privately built business and forcing them into what is essentially the Public Domain is Socialism at it's worst!! If China did this we'd all scoff at their Socialist mindset. The competition bureau needs to recognize that there's nothing stopping others from starting a competing business. Conversley, to circumvent the socialists in this country, I think mls should open up to others that don't pay in like the realtors - but at a MUCH HIGHER PRICE which is justifiable!!

  • alex on 2012-09-18 2:36:55 AM

    right now the real estate industry resembles a giant protection racket, you don't pay protection they won't show buyers your house
    black and white as it gets.

  • LS on 2012-10-17 2:22:14 PM

    As a Realtor who pays Board fees, National association fees, Provincial fees, office fees, consultants fees for ongoing education credits mandatory in our field, all of our other business expenses, I agree that it is a privately built system specific as an industry tool. Law Society would never open up THEIR system - look at ongoing arguments with paralegals trying to represent. I wouldn't want public privy to medical files nor theirs because it is a privacy issue. When people list homes, it is a very private matter with sensitive information and circumstances that should never be made public. I say shut MLS down and put end to it. Agree with comment there should never have been If any access provided should it not be a pay per use, pay per request since we as professionals pay and have paid since inception. We also pay errors and omissions insurance, maintain code of ethics and any endless numbers rules we abide by.

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