I am the founder, CEO and Realtor behind ViewPoint Realty, the operator of the VOW (virtual office website) at ViewPoint.ca. We presently offer service only in Nova Scotia, although ViewPoint is a member of real estate boards outside of Nova Scotia, including the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). We can’t operate under our chosen business model outside of Nova Scotia because of arbitrary “efficiency limits” imposed by real estate boards such as TREB.
The VOW we operate in Nova Scotia is the kind that TREB suggests violates privacy laws and puts consumers and Realtors in harms way. That is patently false. We don’t break any rules nor have we been the cause of any harm to any participant in the marketplace. TREB’s PR campaign is dangerously misleading and not founded in fact. Further, TREB’s opposition to the Competition Bureau’s request to provide its members with efficient access to the member’s own MLS system is also baseless and futile. All of the information that TREB claims they are trying to or must protect is already rightfully in the hands of, used and distributed by its members to their customers and clients every day. Nobody has been hurt or will be hurt in the event this same information is more efficiently accessed, used and distributed.
There are only two kinds of information in this country, public information and private information. TREB is suggesting that there is a semi-private or semi-public class of information – private information that Realtors can disclose, just not online. When it comes to privacy law, the medium used for disclosure is irrelevant.
Since January 2010, ViewPoint has delivered more than 67,000,000 pages of property and listing information to real estate consumers (more than 1.6 million visitors), including much of the information that TREB says could cause the harm. Nova Scotia real estate consumers who register on ViewPoint can see pending solds, price changes and sold prices, along with a host of other useful information. There has not been a single reported incident of crime or issue resulting from the availability of such information. I have confirmed this with Halifax Police. We don’t make available information such as owner names and alarm codes because such information, on the balance of convenience, benefit and protection, does not warrant its disclosure.
TREB is attempting to mislead the public and Realtors that the bureau is trying to force TREB to publish this information. That is simply not the case. It is interesting that TREB is now expending considerable resources to stand up for consumers when their mandate is to service members. It’s up to members to decide what and how to communicate with consumers, not TREB. TREB has taken it upon itself to try and dictate the business practices of member brokerages. Speaking as one brokerage, I don’t want or need their advice.
The real issue here is TREB’s irrational fear that more information in the hands of consumers will reduce or negate the need for Realtors. If they would only look to the reality in Nova Scotia, they could see that nothing is further from the truth. As a member of TREB, we have tried countless times to share experience-based facts and insights with them, those gained from our experience in Nova Scotia. We also had a solution that we felt would have avoided the costly Competition Bureau litigation. Unfortunately, TREB chose to press the ignore button, which on Nov. 9, 2011 led us to “occupy TREB” in a last ditch effort to get our questions answered and be heard. After a lot of scrambling at TREB headquarters, TREB’s director of public and government relations, Vaughn Palmer, agreed to see us. The only two things that the meeting revealed were TREB’s narrow-mindedness and the palatial building paid for in part by the more than $6,000 in fees we paid to join the board.