Here's a free way to find the actual sale price of a home in Alberta
It's possible but not easy to do, unlike in Ontario, where websites now serve up user-friendly data
People looking to buy a home in Ontario suddenly have access to a wealth of new information, but the same data isn't available in Alberta — at least, not as easily.
Numerous websites now offer prospective homebuyers in Toronto easy-to-access information on the actual selling price of properties that have recently changed hands, helping them tune their own offers on similar homes.
This comes after a federal court decision earlier this month that said the Toronto Real Estate Board could no longer restrict its members from disseminating bulk data on sale prices.
The Calgary Real Estate Board refused to answer when asked this week if it restricts its members in the same way as the Toronto Real Estate Board.
The Alberta Real Estate Association also declined to comment on the court decision, noting the management of the sales data is beyond its immediate purview, as a provincial association.
Individual realtors in Alberta do have access to the sale price of properties and will look it up for clients upon request, and some put some of that information online. But there are no easy-to-use online maps similar to those that exist in Ontario.
Jeff Kahane, a Calgary-based real estate lawyer, said he understands why real estate boards would want to keep some of their data private — things like personal information of clients or the value of offers that didn't go through, for example.
But the final sale price of a property, he noted, is a matter of public record.
"In Alberta, if someone wants to know what someone paid for their house ... all they have to do is pull the (land) title," he said.
Obtaining a copy of a land title costs money, however, making the information less accessible here than it is in Ontario.
But there is a way to get at least some of the land-title information for no charge.
Be warned, though: It's not particularly easy.
How to look up sale price — for free
The Alberta government has an online source of data known as the Alberta Land Titles Spatial Information System (also known as SPIN2), from which a limited amount of information is available for free.
The interface is far from intuitive, though.
But here's a step-by-step guide to help you through it:
2. Click on the 'Search' button at the top of the next page:
3. Click on 'Search by Street Address':
4. Enter the address in the fields at the top right and hit the 'Find' button:
5. This will bring up the rough area on the map. From here you may have to navigate around using the north, east, south and west buttons. There is also a zoom button at the top left:
6. Once you've identified the property you want, click on this little icon in the bottom left of the screen, under the 'Tools' functions:
7. Then click on the property you want and it will open up a new window. In that window, click on the little binoculars icon under 'View':
8. That will bring up basic information about the property, which usually includes the 'value' and 'consideration' of the most recent transfer of ownership:
So, what do these numbers mean?
This typically gives you the sale price of the property, but it can get a little confusing.
The "value" in the transaction listing means "the value of the property in the opinion of the purchaser," according to a spokesperson with Service Alberta, which maintains the database.
"Consideration is usually the same," the spokesperson said. "But if the transaction is not arms-length (e.g. father sells to son), then the consideration may differ from the value."
It's not quite the same as what people in Ontario now have access to, but it's at least a starting point for prospective homebuyers or people looking to sell their home and settle on an asking price.
MongoHouse eyes Calgary expansion
Meanwhile, a co-founder of the MongoHouse website, which has been operating anonymously since 2016 in contravention of the Toronto Real Estate Board's wishes, said he is hoping to expand to Calgary and Vancouver in the future.
"We definitely will come to Calgary as soon as we can, but at the moment we are just overwhelmed with the reactions from the public (in Ontario)," said the co-founder, whom CBC News agreed not to identify.
The recent court ruling brought new attention to online sale-price services, and the MongoHouse co-founder said his site has been swamped by visitors in the past couple of weeks, crashing its servers at points.
"There's no company or corporations behind us," he said. "It's just us, two engineers."
He said he started the service in 2015 primarily for family and friends but later decided to make it public.
As a computer programmer, he said he found it "stupid" that when, looking to buy a house himself, he had to go through his realtor every time he wanted another bit of information on the selling price of comparable homes.
"When it comes to buying a property, it's not cheap, right? It's a big decision," he said.
"So you want as much information [as you can get]."
Supreme Court appeal sought
The Toronto Real Estate Board has said it plans to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to review the federal court's decision.
For its part, the Calgary Real Estate Board would only offer a written statement on the topic.
"CREB is aware of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) litigation and is following the outcome with interest," the organization said in an email.
"We understand that TREB is seeking leave to appeal, including with respect to the privacy issues. CREB will continue to follow these proceedings and will look closely at the final outcome of the case."
- An earlier version of this story said the Alberta Real Estate Association declined to comment. More precisely, it declined to comment specifically on the decision regarding the management of home sales data.Dec 21, 2017 2:43 PM MT
With files from Dave Will