September 27, 2023
Some Ontario REALTORS® do not realize there is more than one MLS® System in Ontario. The truth is that there are seven MLS® Systems in Ontario and there is different data in all these systems. REALTORS® need access to all this MLS® data in order to fulfill their fiduciary duties to their clients.
It’s no secret that ITSO believes REALTORS® should have access to all this MLS® data so that they can do their jobs and appear professional in the eyes of consumers. We have said this over and over again. Consumers have access to REALTOR.ca and to VOWs. They know what listings are out there, and they notice when data is missing from their REALTORS®. REALTORS® need to be able to provide their clients with the more comprehensive listings found only in MLS® Systems and they need that information to provide comprehensive comparables.
REALTORS® created these listings and put them in the various MLS® Systems across the province. Now the associations they belong to, formed to act in the best interest of their REALTOR® members, are capitalizing off that data and forcing REALTORS® to pay dual memberships or subscriber fees – just to access data. This is a tax on REALTORS® that could stop. During a time where the dues paid to these associations is under a microscope, and the value of the services those associations provide is coming into question, associations are being offered the opportunity to prove their value and provide a complete MLS® data set to their members.
ITSO has found a solution that can give REALTORS® access to all the data from all the MLS® Systems in Ontario – while each association maintains their own corporate identity, local presence, and ownership of their data. Associations do not need to be forced into, or rush into, amalgamations simply to gain access to data. But this solution will only work if the leaders of the REALTOR® associations in the province support this direction.
The need for REALTORS® to be able to access all the MLS® listings throughout the province has never been greater due to a trend of inter and intra-provincial migration led by more transient populations. ITSO is not, and will not be, a barrier towards increasing access to MLS® data. It is up to the associations in Ontario to decide if they want to embrace this opportunity to be pro-competitive and reduce artificial geographical boundaries that currently prevent their members from accessing data.
ITSO already hosted one meeting in May to discuss potential mechanisms to provide broader access to MLS® data. All Ontario associations and boards at the meeting agreed that the conversation must continue, and requested that more concrete information be provided for discussion. ITSO is now ready to do exactly that.
Following the May province-wide meeting, ITSO consulted a number of vendors that could provide technical solutions to increase access to MLS® data, including CREA, Bridge, Pillar 9, CoreLogic and PropTx. Some vendors chose not to respond, and some provided solutions that may not succeed for political or technical reasons. There is one solution that could work – and be implemented in a very short time frame – if the REALTOR® associations in Ontario are willing to provide reciprocal access to their MLS® data and embrace the solution. This is what will be discussed at the next province wide meeting in November.
Collaboration and co-operation is the way forward. Ontario REALTORS® need to let their local association know if they want their association to provide access to the MLS® data they need, which will increase professionalism in the real estate industry and raise the public image of REALTORS®.
We have heard a plethora of reasons as to why increasing access to MLS® data can’t or shouldn’t be done. Some associations claim there would be data security concerns, others point to issues regarding the uniqueness of specific markets, and competition is brought up at almost every meeting. But these are simply excuses. REALTOR® associations could change to provide services their members want and need instead of just acting as gatekeepers to data. Isn’t it time that we, the industry leaders take a bold step forward?