Open to All Listings?

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) is being asked by the federal Competition Bureau to take down the walls around submitting data to - the site of the Multiple Listings Service (MLS) built and run by organized real estate in Canada, at their substantial cost and effort, over the past decade.

CREA has said they will not throw open the doors for anyone and everyone to list on The association stated in a press release this week that "the MLS system is a system for Realtor members of CREA."

Some discount brokerages say they're being barred from listing on In fact, if they are members of a board, they can submit their listings the same as the real estate professionals who list at now. All the discount brokers have to do is comply with the rules and regulations of the local real estate boards, the same rules followed by realtors whose listings currently appear on the MLS site.

The Competition Bureau is proposing to reduce the level of mandatory requirement of service needed to load listing data to MLS boards. The Bureau has asked CREA to change current rules such as a licensed realtor must act as an agent for the seller through the entire time of the listing contract posted on MLS, and the listing realtor receives and presents all offers to the seller.

What this would mean is that someone can set up a business, at little cost, and charge consumers a small fee to provide their listings directly to local real estate boards, which would then post the data on As I told The Globe and Mail this week, the real question is, are we moving to have a for-sale-by-owner service funded by the real estate industry?... I don't see that happening. And, clearly, neither does CREA.

Roots in Internal Data Sharing

A little history: Decades ago, real estate boards across Canada acquired a data sharing system and created the Multiple Listing Service. Licensed real estate professionals had to be members to share this data. Then in the '90s, some boards - through the CREA relationship - got together and made a decision to create a consumer site, where they would share some data from cooperative boards. That website started with only some real estate boards as members, and has expanded over time.

Today, virtually all real estate boards in Canada provide data to the current version, Listing information does not appear in full form at, the way it does on internal MLS shared data between licensed realtors as members of the boards.

The outcome of this dispute has huge and negative implications for the real estate industry. I believe these issues are a result of organized real estate taking steps to deal directly with the consumer. When the listing data was kept between licensed members of a board, this problem did not exist. As soon as the industry opened it up and started to deal directly with consumers, these issues arose.

I don’t know how we “unwind” this history, nor what the middle ground would be between the CREA position and what the Competition Bureau wants to see happen. I do know that the MLS infrastructure and everything that has been created has been paid for by organized real estate over many years.

This issue has been under investigation by the Competition Bureau in Canada since 2007 (even earlier in the US by the Anti-Trust division of their federal Justice Department).

I am watching closely what develops in this case; I sincerely hope that CREA and the Competition Bureau can come to a resolution without litigation.


  1. Josh 11/05/2009 at 10:54 AM

    It sounds like you are saying you wish that CREA / organized real estate had never launched Sounds like you are saying that you feel as if ALL data should be for Realtors only. Sounds like you are saying that consumers should have to use a Realtor in order to buy or sell a home - or even to research what homes might be a fit. This is typical archaic thinking.

  2. Bill Lafferty 11/05/2009 at 11:42 AM

    What's Next?
    All the Car Curbers and those that sell cars from their driveway privately should now be allowed for a small fee to park their cars at their local Car dealership.They then can directly deal with the buyers that come to the dealership. The dealership although having full ownership of the dealership have no rights and can't object since this would be anti-competitive according to the Competition Bureau.

    Also, all those in the public who have resented paying the high costs of Hotels and Motels should now be allowed to request partial services from the Hotel industry. They can now go to any Hotel or Motel and ask for a cot and sleep in the lobby or hallway for a reduced fee. The Hotel or Motel owner has no rights to refuse these partial services since this is not allowing the public choices and is anti-competitive and restrictive.

    Also, those fed up of paying the high costs of Radio,TV, newspaper advertising can now for a small flat fee advertise on whatever media they choose and they can't be refused since this would be anti-competitive.

    The MLS is owned by the CREA which is paid for by its member licensed Realltors.

    It's a sad day in Canada when the full rights of ownership are stripped away from Businesses and they are dictated to by the Government as to how they can use what they OWN and PAY for, under the guise of being anti-competiitve. I guess we can say Good bye to Rights of Ownership, Free enterprise and Capitalism in this country!

  3. Mike Wiseman 11/05/2009 at 5:44 PM

    The whole basis behind the MLS system is that it was designed and created by CREA and its members, AT THEIR EXPENSE. So why would they allow non-realtors to use their data system THAT THEY DESIGNED AND PAID FOR? There is no rule that an individual must use a realtor to purchase property, and on top of this ANYONE can access the listings posted on so why in theory would a realtor be necessary?

    The answer is that a realtor knows the market, which changes daily, and can help you as a purchaser make an educated decision regarding your purchase. Would an investor invest without proper guidance, or without doing their homework? I think not. Why? Because the potential loss that may result could be catastrophic. Yet people on a daily basis invest in real estate without being given the proper knowledge, advice and guidance necessary to make the appropriate decision.

    Which type of thinking is truly archaic?

  4. Larry Estabrooks 11/14/2009 at 7:21 AM

    "...I believe these issues are a result of organized real estate taking steps to deal directly with the consumer."

    Rubbish. is an co-operative advertising vehicle paid for by each and every member of the Canadian Real Estate Association at the rate of approximaately $3 per month.

    Looking at, each and every property advertised contains the information of the listing agency / brokerage which is advertising the property as well as their licensed slaes reprsentative. is not "organized real estate" advertising to the consumer. It is listing agencies / brokerages advertising to consumers. It's a Canadian co-op and you have to be a member.

  5. Neha Pandya 11/16/2009 at 8:39 PM

    It is my impression that the media does not have all the facts straight. First of all, CREA nor any of its members are saying that if someone wants to sell their home, they must hire a Realtor. Secondly, there are realtors that choose not to join their local board and therefore do not have access to MLS. Majority of the realtors do choose to join their local board in which case they must take mandatory coarses and pay their board dues. They must also follow the rules and regulations of the board.

    Don't all clubs, organizations ie. (golf clubs (members only) Accountants, Lawyers etc. have rules and regulations to follow??

    I am curious as to why this is an issue now when MLS is online vs. when there were only books available to look at listings. The books were also only for members and I didn't hear anyone complaining that it should have been available in the local library.

  6. Gary Findlay 11/19/2009 at 4:29 PM

    While I am a free enterprise supporter by nature; the issue here is clearly market domination and lack of price competition. Arguments such as not having to list with a MLS agent for the most part don't have much weight in most situations. I for one will encourage the Competition Bureau to take action and if they don't will raise the issue with higher level government members as unfortunately the fees are too high in most situations and make no adjustments for market conditions, propeerty value, etc.

  7. Ray 04/18/2012 at 7:47 PM

    "I do know that the MLS infrastructure and everything that has been created has been paid for by organized real estate over many years"

    The truth of the matter is anything related to Real Estate industry is paid off by our hard earned money as homeowners/sellers. As the average home price in Toronto is just over $500,000 and the average selling time is about 15 days, $25,000 paid to the agents for this transaction is simply outrageous. No wonder everybody wants to jump into the RE bandwagon these days. It's about time for the CREA to release it's tight grip on Canadians, I am with the competition bureau all the way on this, we actually need to see more competition in more industries in Canada, not just real estate.

  8. Ray 04/18/2012 at 7:57 PM

    "I am curious as to why this is an issue now when MLS is online vs. when there were only books available to look at listings. The books were also only for members and I didn't hear anyone complaining that it should have been available in the local library."

    Neha, you couldn't have heard because we didn't have internet to voice our concerns, but that doesn't mean we agreed with what was happening. In any case competition is good, it may be though for the monopolists to give-up the sweet %5 but it's good for the people who have to sell their homes, their major assest for which they spent a good part of their lives to build.

  9. PC Lee 10/01/2012 at 12:12 PM

    The reality is that the internet has changed almost every profession and how it works. Its nice that the inner database has all kinds of added info.. but most of us manage to look at MLS and make a list.. period. They can then go view. The added info is not handy to them. I have bought and sold so many houses without the help of realtors and purely because the fees simply dont always jive with the output. It is not the same province to province on what one can do to make a sale.. so charging as though it is.. is just one of the many reasons people look for alternatives. Takes us back to the start.. the net has made that possible. Fighting that will get every profession nowhere. Embracing and using it to advantage is the only solution. Ask the typesetters.. they made the mistake of fighting it. That over the past realtors paid to set up the db is not relevent. Landline phone companies had to share their data when the time came to open up. Not only that, they were banned from using their own data in marketing for wireless as that was unfair to wireless only newcommers. This is how it works here and I repeat.. fighting progress never got anyone anything but buriel.

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