Online services pushing for more transparency in Toronto real estate market
'In a positive way, it's a disruptive technology,' the founder of Hometrics website says
Toronto-based online services are seeking to arm prospective home buyers with more information before they jump into the real estate market, in some cases directly challenging the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) and its efforts to keep some of that information out of the public domain.
For new startup Hometrics, that means gathering publicly available data on everything from the quality of nearby schools to local crime rates and packaging it into reports for potential buyers.
"People have a million questions about the house that they're buying: the building permit queue on the street, the legal uses on the property, the hazards," explained Hometrics co-founder Terry Moshenberg.
Moshenberg thinks Hometrics reports fill a hole in the real estate market, giving information to buyers and real estate agents they wouldn't otherwise be able to gather.
"There's a huge gap. In a positive way, it's a disruptive technology," he said.
Toronto real estate agent and blogger David Fleming said it's a service that makes sense.
"Information is power. I would find something like that tremendously helpful."
He thinks services like Hometrics are in step with larger trends among home buyers, who are asking more questions than ever before.
"Being informed is key in this market," said Fleming.
Moshenberg said not all real estate agents are as ready to embrace Hometrics and its all-access approach to data.
"There's always someone in the room who will say, 'Wait a minute, that's way too much information,'" he said.
Home sales newsletter gets cease and desist letter
Too much information was exactly the problem for another Toronto-based online service.
The Just Sold report, published by Select/Plan Real Estate, provided subscribers with daily updates on what houses in Toronto were selling for.
On September 7, they received a cease and desist letter from TREB, and temporarily suspended publication.
They're joining the ranks of three Toronto real estate brokers who cut off customers' online access to recent final home sales prices in March 2015 after being warned by TREB.
TREB gives real estate agents access to final sale prices that they can share with clients, but insists that this information cannot be published online because of privacy issues.
In April of 2015, the Competition Tribunal ruled that TREB's realtor members should be allowed to post home-sales data on the internet.
TREB appealed that decision, and in late July was granted a temporary stay, meaning that members still aren't allowed to publish how much houses are selling for online - at least for now.
Requests for comment from TREB were not returned.