Supreme Court Denies Toronto Real Estate Board’s Application for Leave to …

Consumers and Brokers One Step Closer to Increased Competition in Toronto’s Real Estate Market

Competition Bureau

The Competition Bureau today welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) decision dismissing an application by the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) seeking leave to appeal a February 2014 Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) decision that ordered the Competition Tribunal to reconsider its ruling in the Bureau’s case against TREB.

In May 2011, the Bureau filed an application with the Tribunal challenging restrictions that TREB has imposed on its members’ use of data in the Toronto Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system. In its application, the Bureau sought an order prohibiting TREB from enacting, interpreting and enforcing rules, policies and agreements that prevent or impede the entry of innovative business models. The application specifically sought to prohibit TREB from imposing restrictions on its member agents who want to use the Internet to serve customers more efficiently.

While the Tribunal dismissed the application against TREB in April 2013, the Bureau successfully appealed the decision before the FCA, which ruled in February 2014 that the Tribunal’s decision was based on an overly narrow interpretation of section 79 of the Competition Act – the “abuse of dominance” provision. As a result, the FCA ordered the Tribunal to reconsider the Bureau’s case on its merits.

The SCC’s decision today means the Tribunal must now proceed with its reconsideration of the case.

Quick Facts

  • With approximately 39,000 members, TREB is the largest real estate board in Canada. The majority of local real estate transactions make use of the Toronto MLS system, which is an essential tool for agents to help customers buy and sell homes. It is much more detailed than what is available on public sites, such as
  • The Toronto MLS system contains data about previous listing and sale prices, historical prices for comparable properties in the area, and the amount of time a property has been on the market.
  • While agents can provide valuable MLS listing information to customers by hand, mail, fax or e-mail, TREB is preventing its agents from providing similar information to customers in an online environment.


“We welcome today’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that denies TREB’s application for leave to appeal. We continue to believe that prohibiting TREB’s anti-competitive practices and allowing real estate agents to provide the services of their choice is the only way to ensure that consumers and real estate agents alike can benefit from increased competition for residential real estate brokerage services in the Greater Toronto Area. Today’s decision brings us one step closer to that goal.”

John Pecman, Commissioner of Competition

Related Information

News Release: Competition Bureau Sues Canada’s Largest Real Estate Board for Denying Services over the Internet

News Release: News Release: Federal Court of Appeal Overturns Competition Tribunal Ruling on Toronto Real Estate Board Case

Associated Links

Tribunal Application: Commissioner of Competition vs. Toronto Real Estate Board

The Competition Bureau, as an independent law enforcement agency, ensures that Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace.

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Information Centre – Competition Bureau
819-997-4282 / Toll free: 1-800-348-5358
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New in Toronto real estate: 1000 Bay Condos

1000 Bay condos1000 Bay Condos (or 1Thousand if you’re into the developer’s branding) are one of a series of new condos in the works on this particularly stretch of the street, the most notable of which is the Britt at the former Sutton Place Hotel site. Not as soaring as some of the other developments nearby, the development will nevertheless contribute to the further densification of Bay St., something that makes sense given its amenities and the width of the road (it’s rarely snarled with traffic south of Bloor).

While the building is another example of a glass condo, lead architect Peter Clewes has given it character with a two tower design that makes for a dramatic rooftop terrace atop the shorter structure. The depth of the balconies throughout the building also add visual interest and ward off an accusations of monolithic design.

1000 Bay condosSPECS

Address: 1000 Bay St.
Storeys: 32
Number of units: 458
Unit types: Studio to three bedrooms
Unit sizes: 377-1168 sq. ft.
Price: High $300,000s
Architect: ArchitectsAlliance
Developer: Crestford Developments
Estimated completion: 2015


  • Media Room, games room, billiards room, and party room
  • Yoga Pilates Studio
  • Exercise Room
  • Concierge services
  • Rooftop Terrace

1000 Bay condosTHE VERDICT

Solid development. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here, but most of the boxes are ticked for a downtown development. The unit range is good, the exterior design is pleasing enough, the units themselves promise some luxury finishes (quartz countertops, ceramic backsplashes, full-height bath tubs), and the rooftop terrace looks like a legitimately nice place to spend time.

It doesn’t bear much explaining that the location is excellent. Situated just below Yorkville and adjacent to U of T, there’s ample cultural, retail, and green space. Yes, you will pay for this (check the starting prices), but living in such a well-served area in Toronto is always going to be costly.

Read other posts in this series via our Toronto Condos and Lofts Pinterest board.

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Toronto’s real estate market is so hot, investors don’t want to touch it

Scott Baker has a rarefied view of Toronto’s real estate market.

“We tend to look at it from 40,000 feet.”

Indeed, as the manager of a private pool of real estate assets, he looks at the broader housing picture in North America from that height.

Mr. Baker, a senior vice-president with Toronto-based MacNicol Associates Asset Management, manages several alternative asset pools. One of those is the MacNicol 360 Degree Realty Income Fund.

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Mr. Baker gets a pretty good look across North America through investing in third-party managed funds with “extreme local knowledge.”

The Toronto market, he says, is driven by powerful trends that are not likely to end any time soon.

“All the money’s flowing into Toronto. Everything looks good.”

But precisely for that reason, his firm doesn’t own much real estate in Toronto.

“We don’t see any value,” he says. “That’s completely different from the trends. The trends are all positive … that’s the paradox.”

Looking first at the bulls’ view, Mr. Baker recalls how Canada avoided much of the fallout from the global financial crisis and U.S. housing market collapse that started in 2008.

Big money around the world began looking at Canada’s conservative banking system with new respect, he says.

“We escaped pretty much unscathed through the recession.”

Those investors see Toronto as a secure place to put capital, a global financial centre, a 24-hour city and a cultural powerhouse.

He points to the large influx of immigrants, for example, and the “Manhattanization” of Toronto caused by vast numbers of people choosing to live downtown rather than in the suburbs. Meanwhile, the greenbelt around the city has limited sprawl and the Great Lake to the south prevents expansion in that direction. The City of Toronto and many surrounding municipalities are committed to increasing density.

Builders are also putting up more townhouses and semis on smaller lots because land is so expensive.

“Developers are packing more people into smaller areas.”

Condominium towers downtown continue to fill up, he points out – and there are still projects with untold numbers of units on the books.

“Toronto is the condo capital of North America, hands-down.”

He expects people will have to get used to living in smaller places because only the top earners in double-income families can afford a detached house approaching the $1-million mark.

Interest rates are low and international capital is pouring in.

Huge institutions such as pension funds and real estate investment trusts have cash to burn, he says. Too much institutional money combined with all that positive sentiment pushes up the risk, in his view.

For a fund to expect a good rate of return, he adds, “you’re betting that these trends are going to continue and there’s no increase in interest rates.”

For the bearish view, Mr. Baker points to the risk to the market if interest rates rise substantially.

People in Toronto are buying single-family houses that suck up as much as 60 per cent of pretax income.

Prices, meanwhile, can’t continue to rise faster than the rate of inflation forever. The math doesn’t work.

“It just can’t sustain itself.”

Taking a long view, he doesn’t see the risk/reward ratio as very attractive.

“Everybody’s very levered here in Canada.”

So where does Mr. Baker have holdings?

“We’re looking below where the big money wants to be.”

After 2008, Mr. Baker says, money managers could invest almost blindly in the United States.

His firm was part of a syndicate, for example, that bought projects in Miami’s South Beach, finished them off and sold them.

His fund is not interested in big trophy projects; today they are finding the highest quality and lowest risk in the secondary cities. Jacksonville, Fla., is one city where he’s seeing opportunity, along with places in Texas and Georgia.

As for residents of Toronto who are not running money but just wondering whether to buy a place to live, Mr. Baker says that is a question he gets asked from time to time.

One relative who rents a condo recently asked if he should buy.

Mr. Baker says it really comes down to a lifestyle preference. He says the best value now seems to be in 10- to 15-year-old condo projects. If you are budget conscious, look at some of the older ones that are well-maintained, he suggests.

If someone doesn’t need to own, he adds, they may be better off putting their savings into other asset classes and waiting for a correction in the market.

Not – he hastens to add – that he is predicting one.

But he thinks it’s a good idea for people with a short time horizon to be cautious. Anyone looking to own a place for 20 years or more doesn’t need to be as careful. Also, he advises caution about borrowing because no one wants to be under water on a mortgage.

“If you’re going to buy a house in Toronto at these fully inflated prices, don’t use a lot of debt.”

Mr. Baker urges Canadians to remember the pain of the early 1990s. Buyers who bought in 1989 got killed, he says.

“People get lulled into thinking this can never happen. [That] this time it’s different.”

But he points to the United States for an example of a downturn that blindsided many. Millions, he says, lost their homes.

“In the U.S., virtually no one saw it coming.”

For now Toronto remains strong and he agrees with the bulls who see the positive trends continuing. But investors should weigh the risk.

“Be cautious,” is his advice.

“I wouldn’t be buying those things thinking you’re going to get rich. It could be the opposite. You could get poor.”

Follow on Twitter: @CarolynIreland

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Supreme Court chooses to avoid Toronto real estate competition case

The Competition Bureau says that a Supreme Court decision Thursday brings it one step closer to stoking more online competition in the real estate world.

The Supreme Court has denied the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB)’s request that the court wade into the heated battle between the Competition Bureau and TREB, the country’s largest real estate board representing about 39,000 realtors in the Toronto area.

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The fight has ensued for years. The Competition Bureau first conducted a lengthy investigation into the real estate industry and then in 2011 filed a case with the Competition Tribunal accusing TREB of anti-competitive practices.

The Bureau alleged in its suit that TREB was preventing real estate agents from making certain data (such as the price a house has sold for in the past) more accessible online.

The Tribunal, an adjudicative body that hears cases brought by the Competition Bureau, dismissed the case, and so the Bureau proceeded to take its battle to the federal appeals court.

“The Toronto Real Estate Board prevents its members and others in the Greater Toronto Area from competing effectively through Internet-based real estate brokerages,” the Bureau said in documents filed with the appeal court.

“TREB’s rules deny the buyers and sellers of residential real estate more choices, better services, and lower prices.”

For its part, the Toronto Real Estate Board has been arguing, among other things, that it is protecting the privacy of sellers.

This February the federal appeals court ruled in favour of the Competition Bureau, sending the dispute back to the quasi-judicial Competition Tribunal.

The Tribunal had originally ruled that TREB, as a trade association, doesn’t compete with its own members, so it can’t be found to have abused its dominance. The Federal Court of Appeal said that interpretation was too narrow, and that the tribunal should consider the merits of the case.

It was at that point that TREB requested that the Supreme Court review the case.

“We continue to believe that prohibiting TREB’s anti-competitive practices and allowing real estate agents to provide the services of their choice is the only way to ensure that consumers and real estate agents alike can benefit from increased competition for residential real estate brokerage services in the Greater Toronto Area,” John Pecman, the Commissioner of Competition, stated in a press release Thursday.

While the case is with the Toronto board, it is being watched in the assumption that it will set a precedent for the rest of the country.

The Toronto Real Estate Board could not immediately be reached for comment.

Follow on Twitter: @taraperkins

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