September 14, 2012
Real estate agents are “feeling the pinch of the Competition Bureau’s efforts to loosen the real estate industry’s stranglehold on the Multiple Listing Service” (Arellano, Realtors hiding behind MLS – brokers).
The Competition Bureau, which is as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace (Competition Bureau, competitionbureau.gc.ca). The bureau is currently holding a tribunal to determine whether the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) has engaged in anti-competitive practices and whether Canadian real estate boards should maintain their control of the Multiple Listing Service (Arellano).
In May 2011, the Bureau announced that it had filed an application with the Tribunal seeking to prohibit TREB’s anti-competitive rules that restrict how its member agents provide information, such as previous listings and previous sale prices, to customers, thereby denying agents the ability to introduce innovative real estate brokerage services using the Internet, such as through Virtual Office Websites (VOWs).
VOWs are password-protected websites that permit customers to search a full inventory of listings containing up-to-date data online, before making the decision to tour a home or attend an open house. This enables customers to be more selective and focused, and agents to spend less time trying to find an appropriate property for a specific customer (http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/03495.html). However, the TREB is worried about the possible privacy violations that would occur if MLS data such as sold data, mortgage information and lockbox codes, noted on listings, were released to the public (Arellano).
Richard Samuels, president and principal broker of Obsidian Mortgage in Scarborough, Ont., defends 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’” (Arellano).
Here at Mortgage Forces, we agree that the public should first and foremost seek guidance from a professional real estate agent to familiarize themselves with the home buying process, and to rely on their experience and knowledge of the market. This service and protection cannot be provided through MLS.
We also find that a real estate agent’s service is particularly beneficial for home buyers that are relocating. Moving into a new city can be daunting, as customers are not aware of the various communities, amenities, or market. However, professional real estate agents, with their expertise, will help you by asking the right questions, determining your preferences, and knowing preliminary real estate law to better protect, once again you, the buyer, and the seller. An MLS listing is not sufficient information for a home owner to feel comfortable in their new home.
Now it is your turn. Let us know in the comments about your experiences with MLS and whether or not you feel the need to use a Real Estate Agent when buying or selling a home.