It’s not the most popular position to take, but Kevin Crigger, president of the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board, is unapologetic. TRREB wants the boards surrounding it and beyond to become partner boards as the country’s largest real estate board prepares to launch its new MLS system this fall.
Most Southern Ontario Realtors seem to agree that having one MLS system serving all boards would be an ideal situation. Members would pay just one membership fee to their local board – no need for dual memberships, buying subscriptions to other boards’ systems or interboard listings.
But when it comes to how this single system would be administered, there’s a sharp divide between TRREB and just about everyone else. In April, Information Technology Systems Ontario, which provides MLS listing content for 21 member boards and has a sharing agreement six other boards, sent an open letter to TRREB, asking it to share its data.
More recently, TRREB ended a data swap arrangement with the Oakville, Milton and District Real Estate Board. That board is currently considering what MLS service provider it will use, with a decision expected by the end of August. Joining TRREB as a partner board is one of the options that OMDREB is considering, but the board was unhappy with the way TRREB described the end of the data swap agreement to members.
An irritant for members of boards near Toronto is when TRREB members list out-of-town properties on TRREB’s MLS but not on the local board’s system. Recently a petition was launched by Blue Mountain area Realtors, asking CREA to make it mandatory to list homes on the board where the property is located.
“TRREB’s membership works across the province, as they are licensed to do. I think a cohesive MLS system, especially with the contiguous market, really makes a lot of sense,” says Crigger.
TRREB runs the largest MLS in the country, with more than 60,000 users. “I think TRREB offers an incredible opportunity for boards across the province to benefit from the extensive staffing and the massive investments in technology” that TRREB is putting into its MLS system, he says. “We have an incredible amount of experience and we have drafted and continued to update our rules on a regular basis. And that work is done by a dedicated group of volunteers who then make recommendations to our Board of Directors. The approach is very grassroots.
“At the end of the day, there’s one member paying membership dues,” says Crigger. “Our goal is always to look at how we provide that member with the highest possible value for the money spent.”
TRREB has had partner board arrangements with the Durham Region Association of Realtors and the Brampton Real Estate Board for more than 20 years, and recently the Northumberland Hills Association of Realtors also joined. The agreement allows members of all these boards to have full access to all listings on the board, under one set of rules and bylaws.
TRREB has made presentations to a number of other boards to become partner boards, and some of these discussions are ongoing. However, some boards are unwilling to give up control of their local MLS system, and TRREB has been accused of being inflexible when it comes to adapting its MLS rules to accommodate other boards’ needs.
The rules are all “with the intent of ensuring the integrity and security of data,” says Crigger. “But you know, if the system didn’t work and the system wasn’t effective, would we have the volume of active members on a daily basis that we do?
“I think there’s a lot of fear-mongering among some boards,” says Crigger. “They’ve created a false narrative and have been very attacking in their approach. And the reality is, we’ve never worked with them. They have no understanding of what our partnership board approach is.” He says the boards that have partnered with TRREB “have happily continued their relationship for greater than two decades. I’d ask these other boards where they have a 20-year relationship approach with any of their local associations.”
Crigger says that with a partnership, it’s the local boards that have the most to gain. For example, he says OMDREB currently has more than 700 dual members. If they became a partner board with TRREB they would no longer need to be members of TRREB. “So we would likely lose 700 members in the process. But in the interest of efficiency and providing the highest level of value to Realtor colleagues, we’re not concerned about that loss of membership because they are getting better value. They are not paying two sets of fees.”
Crigger says TRREB has no interest in having local boards fold or amalgamate. “We really see the value in local grassroots representation. I think having boots on the ground for political advocacy, for community engagement is incredibly important. That local touch and local governance is incredibly important.”
He says partnering with TRREB offers local boards “the best of both worlds” because they don’t need to worry about their own MLS system.
“We’re not creating added layers of bureaucracy, additional costs to membership, additional levels of complication. If you look at Durham, I don’t think they function any differently than Oakville, for example. The only difference is that their MLS provider is TRREB, as opposed to a third party.”
He says the board is hoping to roll out some aspects of the new MLS system this fall. The system is described as a “modern, mobile-first new national front-end multi-list platform that merges land registry and MLS data”. A preview of the system and FAQ section is available here.