Another One Bites The Dust!

Opinion | August 19, 2020


Do the words “pre-COVID” mean anything to you?

Like, previous life, right?

Not to draw too awkward an analogy here, but for those of you with children, you’ll often remember, or quite the opposite – be at a complete loss to remember, what life was like before kids.  I’m certainly in that camp.  It takes a lot of effort to recall those days.

Saturday nights in my old condo, pre-kids?  Wow, that was something.  I’d get home after a long day of showings, order pizza from the car and have it arrive shortly after I did, then my wife and I would sit on the patio and eat, drink, and be merry.  Laugh at stupid things, reminisce, and just relax.  Then we would start a movie, she would fall asleep halfway through, and I’d drink copious amounts of rye and diet gingerale, eventually carrying her into bed at midnight, then staying up for hours, making random spreadsheets on my computer of Cy Young winners dating back to 1957, or browsing new G.I. Joe listings on eBay, and God-knows what else…

Saturday nights in my house, with two kids?  She’s in bed by 9:45pm, I’m following before 11pm, and I’m feeling those two drinks early the next morning as I sit in the park, nursing my Tim Horton’s coffee, with my daughter running around as though she’s just had eleven Red Bull energy drinks.

I wouldn’t trade it for anything, of course.  But all of us try, now and again, to remember what life was like with more freedom.

The same can be said for this new world we’ve adopted; that of face-masks, hand sanitizer, and social distancing.  Think of the every-day experiences we now take for granted.

I mean, when are you going to see a movie in the theatre again, for example?

This all blends together for me.

The last time I saw a movie in the theatre was about November or December of 2018.

My mother came to stay at our house overnight and look after our daughter, and my wife and I went and stayed at the Old Mill Hotel for the night.  We had dinner, watched a live jazz band, and the next day, we went to see Bohemian Rhapsody in the theatre.

It felt surreal.  For a person who works all the time, I was sitting in the theatre, in the middle of a Saturday, feeling like I was playing hooky from school.

Now here’s a question for all of you who saw this movie in the theatre, and be honest: when you left that theatre, did you, or did you not, go home and download Queen’s greatest hits?

Admit it.  We all did.

I downloaded a handful of songs from YouTube, and of course, my wife just bought the album in iTunes which I honestly never thought of doing.

So which song did you listen to the most?

“Bohemian Rhapsody” is great, and for a child of the 80’s and 90’s, it will always remind me of the famous scene in Wayne’s World.

“We Are The Champions” is wonderful, and it reminds me of winning house league hockey championships in 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, and 1996.  It was played every single time.

But for me, it doesn’t get any better than “Another One Bites The Dust.”

And that was the best scene in the movie, too.

The members of the band are all fighting, and bassist, John Deacon, is playing that unmistakable riff on his bass guitar.  The guys stop fighting instantly; mesmerized by the tune.

In case you haven’t seen the movie:

 

 

“Another one bites the dust” is a Queen song, yes.  But it’s a colloquial phrase synonymous with losing, or missing out, or dying, or being eliminated, etc.

I can’t think of a better phrase, or a more iconic rock star, to deliver the fate of popular real estate website, Bungol.

Indeed, as it pertains to popular real estate websites not named “Realtor.ca,” another one has bitten the dust, in a long line of dust-biters before it.

Bungol was shut down by TRREB this month, or to be fair, Bungol had its’ access to MLS suspended by TRREB, thereby forcing Bungol to shut down, and post this on their website:

As much as it pains me to revisit the Competition Bureau’s legal battle with TRREB, and vice versa, surely we thought we’d all heard the end of it?

I distinctly remember standing in a parking lot in downtown Jackson, Wyoming, in the summer of 2018, giving an off-the-record interview to a Toronto newspaper columnist, about how real estate agents fear the Toronto Real Estate Board and their figure-heads, who believe themselves to be demi-Gods, and possess the ability to take away our ability to make a living.  As a result, few agents would go on the record with comments speaking out against TRREB.  I mean, why would they?  We are not martyrs, and we’ve seen what happens to agents who ruffle feathers, before us.

With Bungol now shut down, can you recall the other popular real estate websites that are no longer in existence?

TO Solds?  That one was really popular back in the day, but it was eventually shuttered.

Mongo House?  I remember that one.  They were shut down in 2019 after TRREB filed a $2.1M lawsuit one year earlier.

Sold.Watch?  Their website is still functional, merely explaining, “Thank you to our many supporters.  This service is now closed.”

Zoocasa, which is now an existing brokerage, was providing sold data back in 2015, against TRREB’s orders, but eventually backed down.

Geez, this sounds familar to me.

Napster, Limewire, Kazaa, Frostwire……………………iTunes.

Everybody and their mother uses House Sigma right now, and I wonder if the denial of access to TRREB data for Bungol is a sign of things to come for House Sigma.  If that happened, I think the city would be up in arms.

Now why was Bungol shut down?  Er, I mean why did TRREB take away Bungol’s access to sold data?

We don’t know.

Neither, apparently, does the owner/operator of Bungol, who wants to remain anonymous.

TRREB released this brief statement on the matter:

 

“TRREB requires that all of its members comply with the TRREB By-Law, Rules, Policies and contractual obligations.  TRREB has commenced a process to review compliance and address any outstanding issues accordingly.  In that regard TRREB has taken action with respect to a Member’s non-compliance with their contractual obligations and cannot comment any further at this time as it is an internal professional standards matter.  Home buyers and sellers interested in obtaining information about residential real estate listings may consult any one of the many virtual office websites currently operated by TRREB Members in compliance with all applicable agreements and laws.”

 

Perfect.

A classic non-answer.  One that Mr. Trudeau and others would be proud of.

The major difference between Bungol and House Sigma, from what I can see, is simple: House Sigma has agents, Bungol does not.

TRREB didn’t provide an explanation, but they really don’t have to.  They were asked for a comment and they provided a political non-answer, as is their right.  They don’t “owe” anybody an explanation.

They do, however, owe the owner/operator of Bungol an explanation, and according to he or she, from the note posted on the website this week, no explanation was given.  Or at least not a complete one.

As of Tuesday, this story has yet to make the news.  Search the term “Bungol” and you won’t find anything in the news section of Google, but you will find a Reddit thread which you can access via this link:

TREB cuts off Bungol’s data access from toronto

As usual, the comments on here are from wishful thinkers and wide-eyed optimists.

Comments such as “ok can someone explain to me why do we need TREB?” is just so ignorant and uninformed that I can’t dignify it with a response.

“At this point, TREB should be broken up.”

“Everybody should reach out to TREB to express their thoughts.”

And on, and on, and on.

Commenters use the word “we” as though they are part of TREB, as though TREB is some sort of public service that they have ownership of.  I realize that the world is changing daily, and that entitlement runs so rampant that most people don’t know the difference anymore, but nevertheless, I feel as though the TRB readers can see the difference.

Let me say this: the Toronto Real Estate Board has every right to control their own data.   Full stop.

But my issue is, and always has been, that TRREB doesn’t ask its members what they want.

If you polled the 55,000 licensed agents at TRREB today and asked if they would like for their clients to have access to sold data, an overwhelming majority would say yes.  But would TRREB listen?  I don’t think so.  In fact, I will go out on a limb here and say that I know so.

TRREB is a body of people.  55,000 of them, who elect 16 directors to represent their interests, and then pass these directions up the chain to one or two people.  But in reality, the 55,000 members take direction from the top.  Always have, always will.

The owner/operator of Bungol said above, “Honestly, we are terrified of TREB.”

I agree.

I am terrified of TRREB (and I went on record with this in a Toronto Star article that will appear on Wednesday or Thursday).

I always wonder, “When will I wake up and log on to TorontoMLS to find out that my access has been taken away, due to something I wrote on my blog?  How will I go about fighting a months-long battle to get it back?  Whatever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty?'”

That’s one of my largest fears in this industry.  And yes, I’ve been sitting here for a few moments, debating whether or not I want to put this in writing.

But since I’ve come this far, I may as well go further…

The reason that sites like Bungol and House Sigma exist is because there’s demand.

Why is there demand?

Well, it’s the same reason why there’s a demand for every other product or service in existence: the service is good, if not great, and there are few substitutes.

Realtor.ca is a heaping pile of crap.  It’s awful, out-dated website with poor functionality, but it’s not only TRREB’s fault, since Realtor.ca is run by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).  In fact, TRREB had been making noise last year about pulling out of CREA, but that’s before they went from TREB to TRREB, ie. merging with the Durham and Brampton boards.  But TRREB has more sway than any board out there, and if Realtor.ca was to be improved, it would have to be spearheaded by TRREB.

TRREB created something called “Collaborate,” which was a tool that we could invite our clients to use, giving them access to our own internal MLS.  However, our clients opted not to use this, and instead went back to Bungol and House Sigma.

Why?

That’s exactly the question that TRREB should be asking.

In my dreams, I picture a world in which TRREB spends time and money building a better website for consumers, on behalf of its 55,000 paying members.  Instead of spending tens of millions of dollars fighting court battles, I wish they would do a better job for us, the agents, and allow us to better service our clients.

Imagine if TRREB built a website that was twice as good as House Sigma or Bungol?  I’m sure they have more money than those operators, and surely they could find more imaginative, more creative, more talented designers and coders.

Instead of Bungol, House Sigma, and the like having to obtain a feed through TRREB’s MLS, signing contracts and agreements (we’ve all done this…), TRREB could merely turn on their own faucet for once!

Imagine?

I do.

And every time I see one of these sites shut down after lengthy and expensive battles, I imagine just a little less.

I don’t know why Bungol was shut down, and I cannot state with any degree of certainty that TRREB treated them unfairly in any way.  I’m sure that the operator of Bungol broke the rules, but I’m not sure that I would agree with those rules, nor am I sure that 55,000 other agents would.

But I can say, emphatically, that TRREB’s interactions with these sites continues to point to a need for a better website at the board level, and continues to demonstrate to TRREB that other people outside of our board are doing our job better.

My question, just in case those at TRREB are reading: doesn’t this bother you?

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45 Comments

  1. Verbal Kint

    at 9:18 am

    Brags that his brokerage is stocked with current and past TRREB board members and presidents, yet complains that agents are apparently powerless to get TRREB to do what they want. Does this mean the brokerage is filled with popular yet ineffective people? Or people who enjoy a good game of charades?

    1. Appraiser

      at 10:05 am

      Perhaps the will of the majority of the members does not align with our gracious host, or the Bosely clan or their management team. There are after all over 50,000 members.

      Maybe the majority feel that having to acquire a real estate licence, paying annual membership dues and the requisite annual professional liability insurance fees, entitles them to access of the MLS data, which is the sole and exclusive property of the Board.

      1. Verbal Kint

        at 2:35 pm

        Fits the facts. And more plausible than “members elect the leaders, but the leaders don’t do what the members want them to do.”

  2. Louisa

    at 10:44 am

    David aren’t you kind of putting a target on your back now with TREB? What’s the upside for you if you don’t think anything will ever change?

    1. David Fleming

      at 12:01 pm

      @ Louisa

      For what?

      This is exactly the problem. I’m supposed to fear TRREB because I spoke my mind? That’s how bad this has become. I wrote a blog once about how TREB sent out a letter threatening their own membership:

      https://torontorealtyblog.com/blog/did-treb-threaten-toronto-realtors/

      This is how the board has always been run.

      And this is the problem.

      Today, one of its members wrote his OPINION on his own blog, and that’s a problem? Do you see the irony in your question about putting a target on my back?

      But yes, I’m afraid. TRREB could simply take away access from any of its members, for any number of reasons. I mean, define “Unprofessional Conduct.” If this isn’t a grey area, created to allow the figureheads to do as they please, then I don’t know what is. Who decides what is unprofessional conduct? Does a dues-paying member of good standing, with a good reputation, and a top-100 agent providing an opinion on the access to sales data, and those who control it, fall under “unprofessional conduct?”

      If it does, then TRREB is a dictatorship, not a democracy.

      1. jeanmarc

        at 1:34 pm

        Funny you say that about their code and conduct. OREA has all that code and conduct verbage in their first course of the sales rep and on their exam. In their eyes, the less said the better.

      2. Condodweller

        at 3:31 pm

        I see your point, however, from their perspective I don’t think it would be a stretch to consider a member bashing them on a public forum unprofessional conduct.

        1. jeanmarc

          at 7:00 pm

          Let me put my lawyer hat on. On social media, “Whatever You Say Can And Will Be Used Against You In A Court Of Law”. Never know when big brother is watching.

  3. Izzy Bedibida

    at 12:12 pm

    This is analogous to the Right to Repair legislation that the automotive and electronics repair industries are pushing for. The big automakers and electronics giants refuse to share repair data or make it prohibitively expensive for independent operators that customers are forced to deal with auto dealerships and their inflated prices, or the Apple Genius telling you that you have no choice to upgrade.
    Here its the same…TREB is refusing to share data or sharing it on their terms, even though they lost to the competition bureau…Looks like they’re flaunting their position because Gov knows how much the economy depends on real estate.
    Also aren’t several former ministers and other Gov cronies on the Board?

  4. Diam

    at 12:21 pm

    The realtor site just simply sucks.

    If TRREB wants us non agents to use their site they have to do a lot better.

    1. TRREB HATER

      at 10:44 am

      The point is they don’t. They want us to use agents. Agents pay dues. Dues fund TRREB.

  5. jeanmarc

    at 1:06 pm

    In today’s world, the idea of having to call a RE agent to obtain sold price is totally archaic and a waste of time. Is this to force a person to talk to an RE agent to drum up business or contact? A saavy home buyer/seller today would want to do their own research on comparable sold prices before possibly reaching out to an RE agent. To restrict
    sold prices because an organization dictates this policy is a pure monopoly play.

  6. R

    at 1:52 pm

    TREB/OREA/CREA are all the same. They are protecting their members because they know it’s only a matter of time before they are irrelevant. Nobody like realtors except realtors. It’s like the cabbies mad about Uber.

    The need for an agent or middle man as “sales” in the real estate transaction is no longer there. Technology should logically be the middle man (and likely a lawyer).

    I don’t need a newspaper boy to sell me a newspaper on the corner like it’s 1920 anymore, why do I need a real estate sales person?

    There is no reason why a competent person couldn’t use a well made app to match their needs with current and past sold data and available properties. Going one step further, an app could easily enable sellers to know when there is an opportunity (trending prices, lower inventory, a buyer looking for something they have, etc.) and provide the info to list.

    Buying or selling and agent doesn’t add anything. As David has mentioned, 99% of agents are less than useless.

    Agents don’t know anything special about pricing. David and most admit to being surprised that places sit, or hit sell prices sometimes.

    The bidding process doesn’t need an agent to “present”, especially when it’s all digital and virtual.

    Agents subcontract out the staging and marketing and there’s tons of others who could do it better. Most “For Sale” flyers look like they were designed in MS Word.

    Agents “searching” for properties are doing nothing that an app can’t do. Most agents think “modern” means doorknobs are black instead of brass.

    The realtor website sucks but is not the problem. It’s the whole system.

    1. Appraiser

      at 2:48 pm

      Been hearing that very same theme song since 1986, when I first acquired my real estate licence.

      Twenty years ago the internet was suppose to erase realtors from the face of the earth.

      Now it’s some imaginary futuristic algorithm that some “smart person” will invent.

      Another Ben Rabidoux empty theory.

      1. jeanmarc

        at 3:04 pm

        The problem with the RE industry is who is in control and when the bubble will burst to go computerized. Machine learning (AI) is here and you will see more in the coming decades.

          1. jeanmarc

            at 10:59 pm

            Automation in the next few decades and going forward will kill a lot of autonomous jobs. The young kids now and those being born will need to re-invent themselves in terms of an occupation. One can joke about it but good luck those young ones.

            Just like how manufacturing jobs disappeared from Ontario due to NAFTA.

      2. J G

        at 4:31 pm

        20 years ago Amazon was supposed to erase Barns and Noble from the face of the earth, and it did!

        1. J G

          at 1:32 am

          Why don’t you go buy an investment condo downtown? You’re a perma-bull right?

          Your daughter buying property up in Bradford for their primary residence doesn’t count (it doesn’t reflect your perma-bullishness on the market).

      3. Chris

        at 6:44 pm

        What is up with your fixation on Ben Rabidoux? You can hardly go a week without bringing him up, despite a completely unrelated topic.

      4. R

        at 6:59 pm

        It’s doesn’t need to be smart, or AI or complicated. Realtors and the legacy overlords just need to get out the way to give consumers what they really want. Hint. It’s not agents.

        1. Andrew

          at 10:57 pm

          What a classless move to turn the conversation into realtor bashing, when the blog host is being open and honest about the state of leadership at the board level.

          Maybe just 1% of the general public is able to buy or sell without a real estate agent. Most people cannot, and those that think they can never end up buying, or sell for a pittance.

          1. R

            at 11:22 am

            The conversation was about the system. Realtors are part of the system as much as TREB and Realtor.ca is.

            Why do you think people can’t buy without a real estate agent?

            I’d argue it’s only because the monopoly and bad system set up by TREB which is the same cause of the problems that David is talking about in his blog.

  7. jeanmarc

    at 2:13 pm

    All comes down to power and who controls it. RE industry needs to realize that artificial intelligence (AI) could easily replace their crappy system. In my university days, I studied neural networks and minimal spanning trees (shortest path). Once the application learns all the criteria such as location, pricing, comparables, etc. it can provide all that information in an instant. Stock market trading is done with computer trading applications which place stock price triggers and drives the stock price up and down.

    That brings up a huge can of worms. Is the standard 5% commission in grained with the older RE agents (2.5% buyer agent and 2.5% seller agent) still warranted especially in high demand areas? Is it worth paying agents that kind of commission when I staged all my homes in the past and always sold for more than asking?

  8. J G

    at 4:30 pm

    It’s all about sold data guys. David is right, TREB has them and don’t want to share.

    Someone just need to come up with something innovative, doesn’t have to be fancy. Only need: address, date sold/listed, and price.

    But how to get this data without going thru TREB?

    1. J G

      at 1:22 am

      Not that hard, just get buyers and sellers to disclose the price. Give them small incentive.

      Some tech companies are backed millions from investors and can run on deficient for years.

      So, have you bought that downtown investment condo yet?

    2. Dennis Locke

      at 11:57 am

      Real Estate Agents & Brokerages pay for & therefore own the information available on TREB. Asking for free information is similar to going to a garage and asking the mechanic for the free use of his tools so that you can fix your vehicle at no charge. Probably won’t happen!! Ai can be developed to determine a reasonable sales price for a property. But how dated is the source info. if you can’t get it from TREB you must get it from MPAC. MPAC does not obtain sales prices until the property has sold firm, probably 30 – 90 days+up to 6 days, until its available after TRREB’s reported sale, so compare that with MLS data which reports a sold price within 2 business days of the property being sold, even though, the deal may yet fall through before Closing. There is no other way to get current data unless you use the TRREB MLS system.

  9. Jimbo

    at 6:24 pm

    With new finance minister the tax free real estate gain probably just bit the dust….

  10. Chris

    at 6:50 pm

    I certainly thought this debate had been laid to rest with the Competition Bureau ruling. Disappointing, as I liked Bungol’s UI, but Housesigma, Move Smartly, etc., provide all the same data.

    Also seems a bit ridiculous that TRREB can revoke Bungol’s MLS access without telling them why.

    1. jeanmarc

      at 7:30 pm

      Bungol should go back and challenge the court ruling on the matter? Do I hear a class action lawsuit?

      “From Oct 3, 2018

      A Competition Tribunal decision in July 2016 found that by not including sold and other data in its VOW feed to members, TREB had engaged in anti-competitive acts. An appeal court upheld the decision and on Aug. 23 of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada announced that it would not hear TREB’s appeal. CREA supported TREB at the tribunal and had intervenor status in the proceedings.

      TREB is now supplying the disputed data to its member VOWs.

      CREA media relations officer Pierre Leduc says that before the sold data can be displayed on Realtor.ca, each real estate board must request that the information be added. CREA will then work with the boards, the provincial associations and the regulators to ensure that it complies with all laws and regulations.”

  11. Fraid Agent

    at 8:56 pm

    When the competition bureau ruling came down a couple of years ago, I try to get sold data on my website. It was so difficult and there were so many hoops to jump through, and forms to sign. I eventually just said “forget it!” most of the agents in my office felt like TRRB was making it difficult on purpose, since they wanted as few agents as possible handing out the data.

  12. J G

    at 1:28 am

    USA – innovative country with companies like Amazon, Google, etc. and don’t need to depend on RE to prop up their economy. Result: all RE data is available and housing is only expensive in truly top-tier cities like NYC and San Fran.

    Canada – brain-drain, tax-heavy. Economy need RE to survive and people have to deal with this TREB BS.

    1. Fearless Freep

      at 9:50 am

      If Appraiser buys a downtown investment condo, will you move to your beloved USA?

      1. J G

        at 3:04 pm

        Even better. A lot of my projects are for US clients.
        Making USD while living in Canada and get free health care, haha.

    2. Clifford

      at 11:05 am

      I agree completely. Canada frowns on competition because our Canadian companies would be wiped out. So we have to put up with subpar offerings.

      1. jeanmarc

        at 1:22 pm

        Look at our competition for internet and cell phone/data plans in Canada. Such a farce in this country. Go over to Europe and Asia. Internet/Cell phone plans are cheaper than water. Here it’s Rogers (aka Robbers), Bell, and Telus.

  13. TRREB HATER

    at 10:38 am

    Sorry, I think you misundertstand something. TRREB’s data is not THEIR data. By that argument FB and GOOGs data is their data, and the humans that generate it for them have no ownership. You can argue either way, but that doesn’t serve the public good. TRREB has a monopoly on the data and is behaving anti-competitively. There should be an anti-trust suit against them, and their ownership of this data needs to be brought into the public domain.

    Do you know why TRREB doesn’t want to build a better platform and would rather shut down the ones that exist? They are worried about automation DESTROYING their business. TRREB survives off of membership dues. 55k agents is a lot. If we actually automated away the dead weight, suddenly many less part time agents and much less dues. It hurts business plain and simple.

    TRREB wants people to use agents and brokerages who employ agents. They want agents to pay dues. That’s just how it works and will continue working. The moment we take away the only competitive edge that TRREB has (the data they are hoarding that we are generating for them), then people wake up to the reality that you probably don’t need an agent (at least not your brother in law who decided to do RE part time because he saw his buddy at work make a killing).

    The US has Zillow and Redfin. Those sites have 0 chance of making it here, simply because TRREB owns the data and will do everything they can to continue owning the data. It’s the only leverage they have.

    1. jeanmarc

      at 10:48 am

      The sales rep first course content and the exam has questions about paying your dues. It emphasizes “pay your dues” on time every August of each year. Even gives you scenarios of which month you become a sales rep of how much you owe them from the August time frame.

    2. R

      at 11:29 am

      100%. It’s money and the money goes to the top.

      The thing is, that what is right for consumers ultimately makes someone money, and loses money for others, it’s just a question of who and how open and competitive the market it. A competitive market is by definition changing.

      Uber took over from cabs because cabs suck. When Uber first arrived, they were clean, drivers were nice, payment and hailing was easy and it was a win for the consumer. Uber now is almost as bad as cabs with dirty cars and smelly drivers and drivers who cancel your ride if they don’t think it’s far enough. Drivers are pushing back to Uber on wages and benefits and eventually the system will become as bad as taxis “by design”.

      If it’s Uber or another start-up, automated self-driving cars will again upend the system and it will be the Uber drivers who are left complaining like cabbies once were. This is competition and a free market at work.

    3. Appraiser

      at 11:40 am

      There is no legal argument about who owns the data. That is settled law at the moment and conceded as such by the Competition Bureau. The CB only required the data to be available to Board members to disseminate, if they wish.

      A huge misunderstanding among many is that the CB forced MLS data to be made public. That is not the case.

  14. Billy Z

    at 1:30 am

    “Imagine if TRREB built a website that was twice as good as House Sigma or Bungol? I’m sure they have more money than those operators, and surely they could find more imaginative, more creative, more talented designers and coders.”

    More money yes. More talents, that’s questionable.

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