Vancouver Real Estate Privacy – Does it Matter?

None of Your Business

It is a rare day when a Vancouver Realtor® is not confronted with this question – “who owned that house down the street and what was the sale price?”

According to an Angus Reid Vision Critical poll commissioned by the Toronto Real Estate Board and reported in the Real Estate Magazine, seventy five per cent of the survey’s respondents said ‘it’s none of your business’!

It’s Personal

In a world where virtually every thing is Google, there exists cliques that would erase all elements of personal privacy.

An often sought target that is challenged by Canadian Real Estate Board MLS® services, is the pressure to erase the long standing mandate to protect personal private information entrusted to Realtors® – the most obvious of which is the sales data associated with an individual’s home.

Under the assumption that the Angus Reid survey is accurate, clients of real estate services bear opinion that is contrary to that of the clique. They think otherwise and have expressed in resounding number that real estate boards and by association, Realtors®, are ethically bound to protect that information.

In decisive numbers, seventy five per cent said that such things as the final sale price of their home should be considered confidential and treated with the same regard given to a individual’s personal information.

70% Say Don’t Tell

According to the survey 70 per cent clearly noted that they do not want their contact information broadcast to the public.

While I am not familiar with the internal workings of other board’s it needs mention that the Vancouver MLS® has for many years offered clients the clear choice to not have their name published publicly in conjunction with the listing information. In lieu of their name appearing will be the notation ‘Privacy Protected’.

What’s This About?

It is an ongoing battle between Canadian practitioners of real estate and the Competition Bureau. It is as heated as it is raw! At stake is not merely the jurisdiction of Ontario, it is federal in scope and will affect Vancouver’s MLS®. Clearly, the future decisions made will affect all of us, you, me, and for a long time. Those decisions will define how we as Realtors® both ethically and morally respect you our client’s, private and confidential information.


I’m not big on drawing too many lines in the sand but to be clear, these potential changes are bothersome. Maybe I’m an old school Realtor® but, I do feel it is intrinsically wrong to work against the wishes of my clients. However, if the Competition Bureau decrees the proposed changes, I will be left with little choice other than to comply and spill the beans.

So Tell Me

Take a moment to watch this video and consider the associated commentary. It’s pretty bold but it’s supposed to be – this stuff matters!

Now tell me – what are your privacy meter metrics?

  • When you sign on and list your home with a Realtor® do you think it is ok that we paste your name, phone number and address in any media we think appropriate?
  • Would you like your Realtor® to tell your friends, relatives and neighbours that you sold your home and made a half a million dollars net of your mortgage tax free?
  • Is it ok to broadcast all of your personal information on the world wide web?
  • If you think it is acceptable is there a time frame that makes you comfortable or, can this be done immediately after the sold sticker is put on the sign?

Adapted From REM

Photo Credit Flickr – Alan Cleaver

About Larry Yatkowsky

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*Disclaimer: Statistics Courtesy REBGV. While believed to be accurate they are not guaranteed.
**Numbers provided may vary as they are dynamically posted by the REBGV.

Reader Comments:

Sje Says:
March 23rd, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I would not have a problem with anyone knowing at what price I bought or sold a property. Where has the competition bureau said that it wants realtors to release name, phone numbers, etc.?

March 23rd, 2012 at 9:45 pm

You missed the point of the survey.
Maintaining that specific confidentiality was one of the pillars of RE that the bureau wants to eliminate.

Otto Doppelganger Says:
March 24th, 2012 at 8:14 am

There’s a reason that 95%+ of the retweets of TREB’s fearmongering were by realtors – innovations in the industry would render many of the services they provide obsolete or at lower cost to the consumer.

TREB’s campaign is more self-serving than one that is interested in protecting private information. The campaign attempts to appeal to one of out basest emotions, fear of personal safety, under the guise of some noble act that, apparently realtors can only perform with a virtual monopoly on information.

This article is a well-written counterbalance to the TREB’s position.

It’s inevitable that the real estate industry is going the way of Sam the Record Man. That’s the harsh realty of operating a business in the era of increasingly accessible information, like it or not.

March 24th, 2012 at 1:22 pm


As the reporter clearly points out, all the information is out there in some form or another – it always has been. This is not new!

Re: “Under the guise of some noble act that, apparently realtors can only perform with a virtual monopoly on information”

Looking beyond the fear mongering, I might agree with you about the information except that the survey results, which are presumed to be a valid reflection of people’s choice, run counter. That being the case, the act of keeping the information private is not ‘noble.’ Rather, it is what the clients are requesting of the agents acting on their behalf. As such we are bound to fulfill that request to the best of our ability. Under the presumption of validity, the survey clearly shows that real estate clients are in opposition to the concept of free and open information.

There remains this question – is anybody listening?

Ultimately, I think it prudent for all personal, government, and industry stakeholders to join together and conduct an in depth survey on these important questions.
The objective – to establish a base line determining what the customer views as acceptable in the dissemination of their personal and transaction information by the real estate industry. From this vantage point, it seems a more productive methodology than all the circuitous rhetoric.

MM Says:
March 24th, 2012 at 9:16 pm

How come it’s OK to publicize the sale price when it’s above listing price?

March 24th, 2012 at 9:23 pm

– you should ask the publisher

Not much of name... Says:
March 25th, 2012 at 8:59 am

Sales prices are public…you just have to pay for the information if you want if quickly. Otherwise wait for the new yearly assessments when they come out early in the year.

March 25th, 2012 at 9:07 am

@not much
Actually you don’t have to wait. You can go to land titles to retrieve that information but there is a cost attached. For number crunchers this can become prohibitive both in dollars and time. Ergo the let’s have it for free.

Interesting is that nobody has brought forth the issue of copyright. ie: my house, my pictures my information etc.
When you sign a listing agreement to put it on MLS those rights are given up in favor of the real estate board. It’s a red herring for agents as well since we can not copyright the pictures we provide to the MLS.

Any thoughts?

Iggy Says:
March 26th, 2012 at 8:14 am

I’m pretty sure if I did a survey that asked if Realtors should publish pictures of the inside of houses that show paintings and big screen TVs and doing this would cause an increase in break-ins because thieves would know exactly what they would be able to steal, there would be a large majority that would say that these pictures should only be shown to prospective buyers…

How would look with only pictures of the outside of houses… wouldn’t be much of marketing tool would it?

March 26th, 2012 at 8:47 am

Depends on each situation. Staging offers an alternative in that high value art, collectables or jewelry would or could be temporarily stored.

In the case of an open house, Plan D might be something as simple as potential buyers registering at the front door with photo ID, address, phone and email before entering an open house. But then, the shoe is on the other foot isn’t it? Nobody wants to provide ID just to see an open house for fear that the real estate agent might call them. Then there is Plan F which is showing by appointment only.

I’m seeing more of Plan G when applied to higher priced homes. Bank statement or letter of verification from the bank that says the buyer can afford it before viewing.

Somewhere in all of this has to be a meeting point that is balanced for both. I think the seller has an equal right to know who has entered their home as much as the person entering will in the future believe it is their right to know what the sale price was.

I’m ok with any and all of this as long at it is fair to both.

As for – not a fan!

Ray Says:
March 26th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

70% homeowners in Canada, 70% voted for privacy — big shock. How about you reframe the question and stop with the “spooky language”. Frame the question from a logical point of view and redo the survey: “Do you think it’s important for transparency of all market data for real estate transactions, so that everyone is playing on a level field?”. Then you’ll get the true answer you need. If you keep asking people “Your personal name, address, house price, etc, are being given out to everyone on the internet, do you agree?”, then you’ll get a different answer.

March 26th, 2012 at 3:22 pm

“How about you reframe the question” –
I’m sure this was not your intent but to be clear – ‘you’ as in ‘I’, did not package the survey.

With regard to this sentence: “Do you think it’s important for transparency of all market data for real estate transactions, so that everyone is playing on a level field?”
I don’t have an answer to this but it does prompt a question –
Have you considered that to re-frame the question using these words might result in a response you want to hear?

Last, I would suggest that few sellers want a ‘level playing field’ – like buyers, they want the advantage or at a minimum the perception of an advantage in their negotiations.

Not much of name... Says:
March 26th, 2012 at 5:03 pm


“Actually you don’t have to wait. You can go to land titles to retrieve that information but there is a cost attached.”

Isn’t that what I said?

March 26th, 2012 at 5:20 pm

@not much
apologies – yes you did

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