Tag: treb

Why We Said ‘Yes’ to Zillow

Posted on April 2nd, 2019

Can you believe it?  On The Block Realty Inc. has actually opted into Zillow displaying our listings on their website.  Yes, that’s right – we’ve sold our souls to the devil, surrendered to the enemy and are currently digging our own graves.

But hold up.  Who or what is Zillow?  If you aren’t in the real estate industry worried what Zillow is planning to do to our profession, you may have never heard of this company before, especially if you live in Canada.  In simple terms, Zillow is a real estate marketplace with a serious focus on technology and innovation.   Think of realtor.ca on steroids. From artificial intelligence that gives consumers a better user experience to Zillow’s home price estimate tool (called Zestimate home values), the company is continually evolving and empowering consumers with information.

I recently attended a Zillow event where employees of the company bravely stood in front of a large group of GTA real estate salespersons, brokers, managers and owners and answered the tough questions and debunked many of the myths that Zillow has fallen victim to due to their ‘disruptive’ approaches.

First, let’s look at some of the company’s most recent stats:

  • 195 million monthly users
  • 80% of US homes viewed on Zillow
  • $1.3 Billion in Revenue for 2018
  • 2 million real estate professionals listed on Zillow

How does Zillow make money?  Their main source of income comes from real estate professionals, property management companies and mortgage brokers paying to advertise to the millions of users flocking to their site daily.  Real estate professionals who pay to be “Premier Agents” can create targeted ads by location (not available to REALTORS® in Canada yet).  The higher the demand for that particular location, the higher the advertising cost.

Whether you are a skeptic or a supporter, Zillow is a company that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  It’s a billion-dollar company that caters to consumers and gives them the ultimate user experience.  For real estate professionals, Zillow provides the opportunity to get in front of potential clients and market your listings to a huge audience.  Yes, it will cost money but what kind of effective advertising or lead generation opportunity doesn’t cost money?  It’s also important to note that you aren’t forced to spend money with Zillow. Free options are available through the site.  A real estate brokerage can opt into getting all of their company’s listings added to the site for free.  Real estate salespeople and brokers can also create their own profile (a great way to market yourself), add client testimonials and receive leads on your own listings posted to the site (if your brokerage has opted in).

Should we be giving Zillow access to our listings?  From our perspective, we currently give access to our listings (for the most part) to other real estate sites that have opted into the listing feed with our local board, so what’s the difference?  More exposure?  More visitors?  Better stats about interest for the home?  How is that a bad thing?  Sure, those other brokerage sites aren’t actively making money by selling buyer leads to other REALTORS® but if a consumer visits a competing brokerage site, sees your listing and contacts a salesperson from that brokerage to see the home, aren’t they stealing your business?  How dare they! Or is this just another opportunity to sell your client’s home faster?

Here’s our perspective.  We can’t be so protective over our listings.  Listings shouldn’t be used as a way to generate more business.  Sure, listings typically generate leads, but that’s not the point, that’s a bonus.  At its core, when a home owner hires you to sell their home, they deserve the best possible service, which doesn’t include fighting over buyer leads.  We should want and be expected to expose a client’s home to the maximum number of buyers and what better way to do that then through a site that is likely going to be one of the (if not THE) top home search destination for consumers?

More importantly, before making a judgement or choice about what to do for your brokerage, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and personally educate yourself on Zillow or any other ‘disruptor’ out there.  There are so many new companies, new approaches and new technologies entering our industry and although they may seem threatening from the outside, once you understand their goals, process and why they exist, you may realize that a lot of these companies were created to address a need that likely is focused on putting the consumer first.  Our brokerage has taken a similar approach and it only makes sense to embrace others who are doing the same.

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OREA’s New Forms, Clauses & Updates – Your 2019 Coles Notes Review

Posted on January 10th, 2019

It’s a new year which means new OREA forms, updates to existing ones and new clauses (can I get a what what).  Yes, this news might not be mind blowing enough to make you race to your computer to learn more but this is important.  Seriously.  Think about what could happen:

  • You look unprepared with a client or potential client
  • You look unprepared to an agent with whom you’re negotiating
  • You look unprepared in general
  • You could be one of those people who asks a question on a Realtor Facebook forum relating to these changes and get responses like this: “Why don’t you read the OREA updates, stupid.” “Don’t you know there’s a new form for that, stupid?” “Why don’t you know this? You are so stupid.”
  • You will feel stupid

There were A LOT of changes this year but thankfully, most of them are housekeeping related changes that won’t throw you off your game when reviewing an updated document.  However, it is important to still review the changes because a) you don’t want to look unprepared and b) you don’t want to look stupid.

To get you started on the path of learning more, here is my list of the most important changes for this year (based on my market of residential sales in the GTA):

  • New representation agreements for rental listings along with corresponding schedules and amendments related to these forms.
    • Form 346 – Tenant Representation – Agreement Authority for Lease: have you ever had a tenant question why the hell they are signing a form that says BUYER representation agreement? Well, OREA now has you covered with a much more understandable and appropriate Form 346.
    • Form 245 – Landlord Customer Service Agreement: used when a rental property is not listed but you have introduced/shown a tenant the property and want to set up a commission arrangement with the landlord. Point 3 – Representation and Customer Service in this form outlines in detail that the Brokerage is providing Customer Service to the Landlord and what the means for the business relationship – pretty useful in my opinion.
    • Form 353  Tenant Customer Service Agreement: when you list a property for lease and an unrepresented tenant wants to make an offer, use this form.
  • Residential/Commercial Listing Agreements & Buyer Representation Agreements have added an additional circle to initial on the first page where the seller or buyer acknowledges that they aren’t party to any other representation agreement with another agent (because you can’t trust anybody these days!)
  • Handy Clauses:
    1. ACC – 10 Seller to Provide Security Code(s): The Seller agrees to provide to the Buyer on or before closing any security codes necessary in order to control any security system or devices within or upon the property.
    2. CANNABIS – 1 Buyer Acknowledgement: The Buyer acknowledges that the use of the property and buildings and structures thereon may have been for the sale, distribution, cultivation, propagation or harvesting of cannabis or cannabis plants in accordance with the provisions of the Cannabis Act, S.C. 2018 c. 16 and the provisions of the Cannabis Act, S.O. 2017, c. 26 as amended from time to time and acknowledges that the Seller makes no representations and/or warranties with respect to the state of repair of the premises and the Buyer accepts the property and the buildings and structures thereon in their present state and in an “as is” condition.
    3. CANNABIS – 2 – Seller Represents and Warrants: The Seller represents and warrants that during the time the Seller has owned the property, the use of the property and the buildings and structures thereon has not been for the sale, distribution, cultivation, propagation or harvesting of any cannabis or cannabis plants within the meaning of the Cannabis Act, S.C. 2018 c. 16 and the provisions of the Cannabis Act, S.O. 2017, c. 26 as amended from time to time and that to the best of the Seller’s knowledge and belief, the use of the property and the buildings and structures thereon has never been for the cultivation, propagation or harvesting of any cannabis plants within the meaning of the Cannabis Act, S.C. 2018 c. 16 and the provisions of the Cannabis Act, S.O. 2017, c. 26 as amended from time to time.  This warranty shall survive and not merge on the completion of this transaction.
    4. LEASE/RES – 18 Tenant Cannabis Restriction (great for landlords!!): The Tenant and any occupants of the premises and, including without limitation, any visitors, guests and business invitees shall not sell, distribute, cultivate, propagate or harvest any cannabis or cannabis plants within the meaning of the Cannabis Act, S.C. 2018 c. 16 and the Cannabis Act, 2017, S.O. 2017, c. 26 as amended from time to time, anywhere in or upon the premises rented by the Tenant, the building where Tenant’s premises are located or in any of the common areas or adjoining grounds of such building. Contravention of this provision shall be deemed to be a material breach of the lease and grounds for termination of the lease.
    5. LEASE/RES – 19 Tenant Shall Not Smoke (yay!): The Tenant and any occupants of the premises and, including without limitation, any visitors, guests and business invitees shall not smoke anywhere in or upon the premises rented by the Tenant, the building where Tenant’s premises are located or in any of the common areas or adjoining grounds of such building, except for the following designated smoking area(s) (Insert Text).

      For purposes of this provision, the term “smoke” or “smoking” means to inhale, exhale, burn or have control over a lighted cigarette, lighted cannabis cigarette, cigar, pipe, hookah pipe or other lighted smoking implement designed to burn tobacco or any other substance, including without limitation, cannabis as defined in the Cannabis Act, SC 2018 c16 as amended from time to time for the purpose of inhaling or tasting of its emission. Contravention of this provision shall be deemed to be a material breach of the lease and grounds for termination of the lease.

    6. NEW – 03 HST – New Homes (finally!!): The Buyer and the Seller acknowledge and agree that the HST payable in connection with the purchase and sale transaction contemplated by this Agreement of Purchase and Sale is included in the purchase price subject to the provisions hereinafter set out. Notwithstanding that the purchase price payable by the Buyer includes HST, the Buyer hereby assigns and transfers to the Seller all of the Buyer’s rights, title and interest in any rebates, refunds or credits available, including Federal Sales Tax rebates and HST rebates to which the Buyer is entitled in connection with the payment of HST payable on the transfer to the Buyer of ownership or possession of the property. The Buyer further appoints and authorizes the Seller or the Seller’s agents to be the Buyer’s authorized representative and attorney for the purposes of applying for and collecting such tax rebates. The Buyer agrees to execute, at no cost to the Seller, any and all documents required to give effect to this provision. The Buyer represents and warrants to the Seller that the Buyer shall personally occupy the property or cause one or more of the Buyer’s relations to occupy the property as the Buyer’s or the Buyer’s relation’s primary place of residence upon completion and agrees to deliver to the Seller on closing a Statutory Declaration in the Seller’s form in which the Buyer declares that the property being purchased by the Buyer is for use as the Buyer’s or the Buyer’s relation’s primary place of residence and will be so occupied forthwith upon completion. In the event that the Buyer breaches the warranty or any of the provisions referred to above which results in the Buyer being ineligible or the Seller being unable to obtain the rebates referred to herein then the Buyer shall pay to the Seller forthwith an amount equal to the amount which the Buyer would have been eligible to obtain were it not for such breach or failure to carry out the Buyer’s obligations.

 

Ready to learn more?  Of course, you are!  Your real estate board should have sent out an email with a detailed review of the changes that you likely ignored or trashed before reading (no offence – don’t worry, I do it too).  Or click on this link (you’ll need to login first) for a full review from OREA – https://www.orea.com/~/media/Files/Members/OREA-Standard-Forms/Change-Summaries/OREA-Standard-Forms-2019-Summary-of-Revisions.pdf.  Happy learning!

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Home Sale Prices Will Be Made Public In Toronto – What Does This Mean For You?

Posted on August 24th, 2018

*Since this article was written, there have been some updates from TREB.  The updates will be shown throughout the article in red.

After a seven-year battle between the Competition Bureau and the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled yesterday that it will not hear TREB’s case to keep the sale prices, historical listing data along with historical sale prices of home sales private.  Within the next 60 days, the general public will be able to access this data through password protected sites operated by real estate brokerages, sales representatives and other real estate related companies who choose to make this information public.  

This change will help to bring more information, choice and transparency to consumers and will enable the real estate industry to use this data in innovative ways.  As the industry waits to see how quickly this information will be made available, many people are likely asking the question, what does this mean for me?  Here is our rundown of what to expect, and what we all still need to know.

For Consumers:

Consumers have been limited to the information to which they have access when it comes to buying or selling a home.  Why is this home priced so low?  How long has this owner owned the home?  I could have sworn I saw this home listed for $20,000 more a few months ago – what’s going on?  Well, now you will be able to do some of your own research should you choose to do so. 

What do you need to look out for?

Within 60 days (by October 22nd, 2018), you will be able to access this information through a variety of different real estate websites.  Some sites have already started to offer this service without waiting for formal instruction from TREB.  Those sites that jumped right in may have to change their process once TREB decides the proper protocol, so be cognizant that logging in to a real estate website now may encounter some slight or major changes in the next couple of months.  TREB has also confirmed that anyone publishing this information now are not allowed to do so.  Therefore, it would be expected that some of the sites that already provide this information may stop doing it in order to comply with the direction from TREB.

Don’t want the sale price of your home made public on these real estate sites?  More information about this should be made available soon on how to opt out. Right now, you can opt out of being a part of MLS when you list your home, and this ruling did state that such an opt out is still necessary, it is unclear as to whether there will be a specific opt out for just the historical data. However, it’s important to note that ANYONE can access the sale price of your home at any time through the land registry office for a small fee so this information won’t be (and has never been) kept completely confidential.  Furthermore, anyone who knows a Realtor (with almost 60,000 of us, we’re not hard to find!) can find out this information quickly with a quick email, text or call.

Based on TREB’s recent email to members, it appears as though an opt out option might not be available and all data “could be made available on a VOW as of October 22nd, 2018.”  TREB will continue to provide updates and listen to the feedback from the public/members and ensure privacy is kept a priority.

What does this mean to you?

You will now have more information at your fingertips.  Realtors will still provide the experience, education and tools to help you interpret this data, but accessing it will become faster and easier.

Will this access to information cost you money?

For now, it doesn’t appear that brokerages offering this information will charge for it, however there is the requirement that people accessing the data have a username and password from the site they use.  It is doubtful that accessing this information will ever cost you money but that doesn’t stop some companies from trying.  Keep this in mind as you navigate the different sites that begin to offer more information, and don’t sign up for a site that charges for accessing this soon to be public information.

TREB has stated that “the information can only be used for the purpose of engaging in residential real estate brokerage services” and “cannot be monetized in any way.”  Therefore, if you do see a website trying to monetize this information, make sure to report them immediately to TREB or notify your Realtor who can contact TREB themselves.

For Realtors & Brokerages:

As Realtors, we now have the opportunity to think of new and innovative ways to use this data.  Whether through the creation of more robust tools to interpret and display data for the public, thinking of next level opportunities such as artificial intelligence or working with other industries to harness the power of this data – the opportunities are endless.  

Will your TREB fees go up or down? 

One could argue that because TREB is providing the same information to Realtors as they are to the general public, that Realtor fees should go down.  This would be because the information is not as exclusive anymore, therefore not as valuable to a Realtor. The access to this information however, still needs to come through TREB, and as there is more information being accessed now, TREB could try to charge MORE for accessing this additional information.  In other areas where this sort of data had been made available (such as parts of the United States), there were different charges for the amount of data being accessed from member boards, with a higher price tag on data feeds including historical data.

TREB has confirmed that “fees will not be impacted by this decision.”

What will be the cost to implement this information on your own website? 

While it seems as though a flick of the switch is all that’s needed to implement this additional information, you will still need to involve your developer to set up a password protected part of your site if you haven’t already done so.  It’s a great idea to start discussing this with the person or company who handles your site to give them a heads up about what’s to come and what they need to do in order to offer this information on your site (if you choose to do so). There may also be new processes and interpretations (with new costs) required to better integrate the larger and differently laid out data into your searches or reports (this is especially if you are currently pulling the less robust data into a preset model on your website).

Will Realtor.ca or tools such as TREB’s Collaborate System begin to offer sold price data as well? 

The hope is yes.  It only makes sense for TREB to help direct as many people as possible to those sites in order to best serve our industry.  How and if Realtor.ca does integrate this data into their public searches should be watched in order to determine what similar (or enhanced) features your own sites can offer. Weigh the potential costs and benefits so that you aren’t committing a large amount of resources to replicate something already offered.

How will this impact other boards of which you are a member? 

Many members of TREB are also a part of other boards throughout the GTA – for example, the Mississauga Real Estate Board (MREB) and the Oakville Milton District Real Estate Board (OMDREB) share their MLS through a system called Ortis.  For now, these boards are not opening up their sales data so depending on the area you are working in, your clients will not have access to data outside of Toronto, which can be confusing.  However, it can be expected that now that the largest real estate board in Canada is opening up their sales data, other boards will consider following suit.  

TREB has communicated that they also expect other boards to change their practices as well.

What happens with interboard listings? 

Sometimes, a Realtor from another board will list their property on their own MLS system.  This listing will then appear on their home board and the Realtor will often go through a process called ‘interboarding’ in order to list it on the Toronto MLS as well.  Will the sale price data transfer to TREB once the home is sold?  What happens if the agent fails to list the home on TREB and just has it on their own home board?  Will historical data be limited only to the times a property was available to TREB? There may be some missing information as a result.  

TREB has confirmed that the order will apply only to those listings that appear on the Stratus system, including interboarded listings.  Therefore, if the listing is interboarded, the sale price information will be made available.

What about sales that are pending, firm but not closed, etc?

Once a sale is closed, the data is definitely available to the public (as it is now through land registry), but what about the information on a property that has sold but isn’t closed yet? In other markets where sold data is made public, the information is released once the deal is closed, not once conditions are waived. Classifications such as ‘pending escrow’ (which would equate to ‘funds in trust’) would be an option, but releasing sale prices prior to a ‘sale’ being official could have dangerous consequences. TREB will need to be clear on their plans.

The official ruling defines the disputed data as: “the data in the MLS System Database including the archived data, with respect to sold and pending sold homes, withdrawn, expired, suspended or terminated listings, and offers of commission to brokers who represent the successful purchaser.”  The ruling goes on to state that the conditionally sold listings are not included in the disputed data.  For all the details on this ruling, click here.

For Everyone:

For consumers, Realtors and brokerages, the next 60 days will be a very important time.  It is time to keep your head up, be aware of the opportunities and ask questions. There is not an absolute method that has been prescribed in how this information will be made available, and what conditions may be placed on the release of the information. Knowing that this decision took seven years to come to fruition, TREB’s opposition implies that they have also been preparing an interpretation of the ruling that may look different than the industry is expecting.

As a brokerage built on transparency and innovation, this is most certainly an exciting and important time for On The Block. We are making sure to look beyond the ruling into the consequences that may follow, and we are preparing not just for more data, but for the nuance that surrounds it, and the ways that this information can better serve our clients and the public. As more information comes out about the methods in which the information will be provided and can be shared, brokerages and agents need to be nimble enough to make the new process available and useful to the public. Conversely, the public needs to stay aware of the new tools that will quickly become available in allowing them to make more informed decisions.

There will be a learning curve and some adjustment needed, but this decision is a step in the right direction to a more transparent and innovative industry. We will keep a close eye on developments, and look forward to helping people make use of this data in ways that add value and give them even more power in their real estate decisions.

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