After a five-year investigation, the Competition Bureau’s case against the Toronto Real Estate Board finally hit the courtroom yesterday. (TREB’s exclusive control of the Multiple Listing Service has it facing accusations of anti-competitive behaviour like denying low-cost brokerages and homeowners access to sales information.) On the first day of the hearing, John Rook, a lawyer for the bureau, gave some pretty staggering numbers:
• Apparently, agents from ReMax and Royal LePage collected 45 per cent of commissions paid by GTA homeowners (totalling about $2.2 billion for the two real estate giants).
• And, as GTA home values have risen, the agents have seen the value of their 2.5 per cent grow as well, from an average of $9,000 per property five years ago to roughly $11,500 today.
While Rook argued that today’s web-savvy buyers and sellers should be able to avoid paying that commission and access sales info themselves, TREB maintains that opening the Internet floodgates is a massive privacy problem. Whatever the tribunal rules five weeks from now, it should be precedent-setting. [Toronto Star]