We Want Zillow

Garth Turner, at greaterfool.ca, today published a good piece on the benefits of information.
Zillow is a transparent and comprehensive source of RE data for US RE buyers.
If you’re Canadian, you’ll find Zillow breathtakingly useful for exploring any US RE market.
Why can’t we have a BC equivalent?
Is the fact that BC RE consumers are kept in the dark an admission of local market frailty?
- vreaa

23 responses to “We Want Zillow

  1. Zillow is not harmonious – please harmonize this topic.

  2. Information, details and options are not harmonious for expediency!.
    Secrecy is how we succeed.
    Yours truly,
    Class of ’24, ’44, ’64, ’84, ’04

  3. Anybody knows an effective way to maximize the benefits of a monopoly is to treat its customers like mushrooms… CREA does this in spades…

    Keep them in the dark.
    Feed them b*llsh&t

  4. Serious question, will Zillow change the price you pay for a property, or do you want it because you’re porn addicts?

    Sincerely, your grandparents

    • To the extent that it helps me find a property that’s a better fit for my needs, it could be a factor in my paying more.

      There’s an old saying in real estate, “you don’t make your money when you sell the property, you make your money when you buy it.” It’s a lot easier to buy a place below market or in an area that will gentrify than it is to sell a place for more than market. Zillow and other tools like it would seem to me to make it more difficult to buy below market and, in that sense, it could drive average prices up.

    • Zillow allows instant access to the sales history of any property (in great detail), and a charted estimate of the fluctuation of its likely market price over time.
      As in any market, intelligent buyers will probably be able to use that data to their advantage in negotiating a good price, when they judge that the time has come for them to buy. For these participants, more data is good.
      The increase in available data won’t guarantee that some won’t continue to make mistakes, of course.

      BTW, Ralph, it’s a small point, and arguably one of semantics, but we’d take you to task on the “buy below market” comment. One never buys “below market”, the price you pay is the market price. We make this point (somewhat tediously? if so, apologies) because it’s important to note that such price action (a buyer negotiating a price that many perceive to be below what the property ‘should’ have sold for), is an integral part of the mechanism of falling prices.

      • Ralph Cramdown

        While I know what you’re trying to say about the buyer’s price being the market price, I respectfully disagree. It’s a function of the real estate market’s poor price transparency and the relative difficulty of making a binding offer. Properties often sell for enough below their most recent asking prices that other market participants see that transaction print and say to themselves “hell, if I’d known he was going to sell it that low, I’d have bought it myself and paid more” and they actually mean it.

        All kinds of weird things happen in the real estate market, like vendors accepting a significantly lower all-cash offer even when there’s a higher offer, requiring financing, from a well qualified buyer. Real estate agents putting bank REO on MLS for five minutes (just long enough to print a copy to prove it was listed) before selling to a friendly investor (double ending the deal), who’ll soon flip it. Don’t worry, there will be more frauds coming our way, we can read all about them in the US market.

        So yeah, t’s a market, but it isn’t an efficient one, and that means there’s sometimes deals to be had.

      • Ralph: I think you know that we don’t really disagree on the essentials here, we’re discussing finer points, but interesting nonetheless.
        I’d submit that you are describing aspects of any market. For instance, a stock is dropping, somebody chooses to buy. Later that day it’s selling at 3% less, they think, hell, if I’d known sellers would take it down this low, I’d have waited… no different from what you’re describing.
        The fact that market conditions (lack of transparency, illiquidity, etc) may allow “deals to be had”, doesn’t mean that those deals are in some weird way outside the market. Those deals are buy/sell points same as any other; those deal prices become the actual market prices.

      • The two complaints I have with MLS are:
        1) Does not allow innovation via Google or Zillow or others to better communicate market information
        2) There is unequal access to the database. Those with ties to Realtors — including personal relationships — have a preferential advantage over those who do not. Since Realtors are not only market brokers but also market participants they too enjoy a competitive advantage

        #2 is by far the most egregious and should be the focus of the competition bureau. While there may not be a competitive advantage on paper there is one in practice. It is unlikely this can be solved without opening up the database at some point in the future. Given the Americans are doing it without any significant measurable detriment to Realtors the case becomes even weaker.

      • As per Ralph’s comment below, here is exactly one such listing where it was listed for a couple days at a joke price of $1.2M and then relisted as a “we will build your dream home” for a bigger joke price of $2.78M

        http://www.realtor.ca/PropertyDetails.aspx?PropertyID=12612160&PidKey=-1272248684

        This has got to be some shifty deal

      • Real Estate Tsunami

        YYR,
        So, in order for me get preferential information about RE in BC, I’d have to befriend or marry a realtor. YUK.

      • Marrying a Realtor™ didn’t work out all that well for ‘Lester Burnham’, RET… made for a great picture though…

        [NoteToEd: Directed by Sam Mendes]

  5. In the land of the blind, the one eyed realtor is king …or something.

  6. Any applcation that would make home prices more transparent would lead to legal action by realtors. There were multiple cases in the past where various Canadian RE information services were closed by cease and desist nastygrams or by court order.

    • It’ll only happen if realtors are forced, by law or by overwhelming consumer pressure, to free up whatever data they have available to them.
      Jesse (yvrhousinganalyst), on a related thread on RET (that I only saw after posting the above in response to GT’s post), makes the excellent point that an argument can be made for unfair business practices (in that realtors and those close to them have access to information about the market that gives them advantage).
      I don’t foresee a Canadian Zillow any time soon, but it’s the kind of thing that may transpire after a housing price crash, when committees, task-forces and panels are set up to frowningly work out “what went wrong”. They may come up with lack of price history transparency as one “reason” for the catastrophe. We all know they’ll be wrong in this assumption, because bubbles blow up and crash even with this info available, but they may suggest changes in that regard… because it’s one of the few things they’ll be able to “do” about a recent crash.

      • Chad in Burnaby

        Great point about the postmortem forcing realtors to open up this data. In fact has there been a thread or discussion about the kind of RE market reforms that should be debated/enacted? I’d like to kick off some reform suggestions:

        1. More transparency (i.e. The topic of this VREAA posting)
        2. Factual information only in RE postings – no realtor opinions or exaggerations allowed, for example. No unsubstansiated claims too.
        3. Declaration, or better still -avoidance, of conflicts of interests – this is a tough one however there should be more than self-regulation, which I think is what happens today. Correct me if I’m wrong.
        4. Etc
        5. Etc

  7. I don’t think US data is as up-and-up as Garth presents it, though certainly a far cry better than what we have access to up here. Patrick of Patrick.net (one of the “original” housing bear blogs in the US, and easily the most informative) just released a new book about housing and RE industry practicies, and he details all the shennanigans that realtors play with the data.

  8. Speaking of data, transparency and money….

    “Nonresidents have acquired $55.8-billion of Canadian debt securities in the first nine months of 2012, on par with the same period in 2011. This trend is expected to continue over the near term.” – David Rosenberg, Chief Economist, Gluskin Sheff + Associates

    [G&M] – Canadian Dollar DeFacto GlobalCurrency

    …”The chief economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates was referring this week to a plan by the International Monetary Fund to include the Canadian and Australian dollars on a list of currencies in quarterly reports on the foreign exchange reserves held by central banks.”…

    http://tinyurl.com/bg5vnsb

  9. I’m a huge proponent of this issue and just in case you didn’t read the hundreds of comments that came after the official story, Bill McMullin posted a followup which was even better than his quote within Garth’s story and gave even more context which I found fascinating.

    Bill McMullin:
    I’d like to offer a few points about ViewPoint and the issue.

    - ViewPoint is a licensed brokerage and member of a number of real estate boards, including Toronto. Members own the boards and the data. The Competition Bureau case against TREB is about members being able to distribute listing information online like they do in person. If I as a member want to make listing data available online, I should be able to. Forcing me to do it in person, manually, just raises my costs and slows the process. I like that consumers like what we do and how we do it.

    - There are a number of obscure, data-rich and powerful custodians of public property data beyond real estate boards. Organizations such as Teranet, CMHC and MPAC have public mandates including legislated tolling powers to collect and manage data. It’s seriously questionable when the group (the taxpayers) that paid to collect the data are the one group that don’t have ready access to the data! Teranet, CMHC and MPAC sell our data to banks and agents but they won’t make the data available to innovators who see an opportunity to add value to the data, integrating disparate datasets and making it available to the public the way they like it – free and easily. The way it stands now, these organizations, by not releasing the data, gain an effective monopoly on innovation in terms of how the data is used. The alarm bells should be going off and the public enraged.

    Bill McMullin
    CEO
    ViewPoint.ca / ViewPoint Realty

  10. Redfin is much better, but yes i agree we definitely need something better than realtor.ca!

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