Musings from RAHB CEO George O’Neill

Last month I took a look back at what had been accomplished at RAHB in the first half of this year.  Now I’d like to focus on the second half of the year and, of course, the regional MLS® System is still the big story as we are approaching completion.

At their June 30 meeting, the RAHB Board of Directors decided that, instead of giving up management of our MLS® System by fully cutting over to the regional Matrix system, RAHB would instead upgrade our Fusion system to our own Matrix  system. This system will be compatible with the regional one – and put in place listing sharing with all regional boards/associations. This approach will still achieve the original goal of the regional initiative but in a way that mitigates risks for RAHB members. The goal is for RAHB and all regional REALTORS® to be able to access active and sold listing information from across the region. The Directors came to this decision after comparing the benefits of continuing with our own MLS® system for RAHB against the risks of adopting the governance of ORTIS, the governing body of the regional system.  Our Board’s decision was on the side of protecting RAHB members; therefore we have now entered Phase 2 of sharing regional MLS® data.

We understand that there has been some inaccurate information distributed about this approach, and I want to be very clear about what has and has not transpired.


First, what has NOT transpired:

RAHB has NOT left the Regional MLS® System.  We are still uploading MLS® listing information from Fusion to the regional Matrix system every 15 minutes and RAHB members can still access all listing information in that Matrix system.  We intend to continue working with ORTIS and the regional boards and associations going-forward.

RAHB has NOT taken this route because we want to “control” ORTIS and the Regional MLS® System.  In fact, RAHB has gone to great pains to attempt to bring more equitable decision-making to the ORTIS organization so that no one board or association can be disadvantaged by majority decisions that do not suit their association or cannot be afforded by their association.


What HAS transpired:

The original goal of sharing MLS® active listing and sold data among the regional real estate boards and associations has been met in the current regional Matrix system.  We are now considering this to be Phase 1, and it’s a major achievement benefiting RAHB and all regional REALTORS®. 

RAHB’s Directors had concerns about the risks posed by the business and financial models developing at ORTIS, the body that manages the Regional MLS® System.  RAHB attempted on several occasions to discuss the risks and suggest changes that would reduce the risks for all boards and associations involved, but those discussions failed to reach mutually beneficial outcomes.  The only viable option available that would still maintain the benefits of a shared MLS® System for RAHB members and regional REALTORS® was to proceed in an alternate way to achieve the same goal of shared information.  That has led to Phase 2 of regional MLS® data sharing.

RAHB’s Matrix system will be launched before the spring market in 2017.  It will be compatible with the regional Matrix MLS® System so that active and sold listing information can flow freely between systems.

RAHB remains committed to sharing MLS® listing information with the boards and associations participating in the Regional MLS® System. RAHB’s Board of Directors has every confidence that the real estate boards and associations participating in the Regional MLS® System have the same goal we do:  that their members benefit from access to the widest compilation of listing data in the region.  That was the original goal when this project started, and it remains the goal today.


On July 18, RAHB President Kim Alvarez and I sent a letter to each member explaining Phase 2 – a synopsis of that letter is on page 5 in this issue of REALINFO.  We have also compiled questions and answers we have received through our webinars, Facebook and other sources; there is a link to the most up-to-date version posted on the same page.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to get in touch with us – you can post your question on RAHB’s Facebook group, email your question to, or call me at 905.529.8101 x230.


Next month I’ll talk more about what else is coming up between now and the end of the year.




Musings by George

The end of June marks the half-way point in the year, and it’s a good time to take stock of what’s transpired already this year, and what we are looking forward to in the second half of the year.

I don’t need to tell you that the hot real estate market has continued from last year into this year. You’ve all been very busy out there!  As I write this just days before the end of June, our stats are showing that new listings are down almost 15 per cent from last year, so there are fewer properties that buyers have available to them. Sales are also down, but by just 2.5 per cent from last year. I know that sounds like the market is reversing a little, until you consider that in the first half of last year, we had three all-time record-breaking months in a row.

There’s been much made in the press and in conversations about the increase in median and average prices – they are up 12.4 per cent and 11 per cent respectively over last year for the first half of the year. Those are significant increases, and there are certainly questions about affordability in the Hamilton area especially – it’s historically been a city that’s been considered “affordable”.

As I said at the recent Bay Area Economic Summit, there’s nothing on the horizon to suggest that things are going to change in the near future. However, the Hamilton and Burlington areas – and I should include our outlying areas as well – have such a wide range of housing options that there should continue to be affordable choices for home buyers.

In looking back over the first six months of this year, there are some highlights that stand out.

On March 23, 2016, REALTOR® CONNECTIONS AGM, Conference and Trade Show attracted 499 members for a day of education, networking, and learning more about RAHB and how we serve you, our members. It was my first REALTOR® CONNECTIONS and it was a great opportunity for me to meet and speak with so many of you there. Planning is already underway for next year’s REALTOR® CONNECTIONS – watch for changes!

RAHB’s annual Charity Golf Tournament was held on June 23 at Copetown Woods Golf Club. This event raises funds for the Karan Barker Scholarship Fund and it was a pleasure to golf on such a beautiful course, meet more of our members and support a great cause.

The Karan Barker Scholarship is one of our many member services and I’d like to remind you that the deadline for applications for this year’s scholarship is Friday, August 12, 2016. If you have a daughter, son, granddaughter or grandson who is or will be attending university or college in the fall, please look for the scholarship application on REALTOR Link®, under the Member Services tab – we would be honoured to assist with furthering the education of young people in our RAHB family.

I hope you have a great start to the summer and in my next column, I will talk more about what we are looking forward to in the next six months.



Musings from RAHB CEO George O’Neill

There are two events happening in June that are worth noting.

RAHB’s Charity Golf Tournament is taking place on Thursday, June 23, 2016 at Copetown Woods Golf Club. This tournament supports the Karan Barker Scholarship Fund, and it is an important way we help our members’ children and grandchildren fund their college or university educations.

Although this will be my first time golfing in this tournament, I am really looking forward to it. I visited the golf course awhile ago and it looks like a great tournament course!

Contest holes are one of the fun parts of any golf tournament. So far, I’ve heard about a putting contest, a “closest to the Crown Royal” contest, a chance to upgrade to an Escalade golf cart and something about a hole in one contest featuring a Mercedes as the prize. How great would that be?!

The golf tournament is about much more than just the prizes, though.  It’s the chance to network and mingle with other RAHB members and the sponsors who support the tournament. It’s also about the funds raised for such a great cause, the Karan Barker Scholarship Fund. Higher education has become both very important and expensive, and it’s a privilege for RAHB to help our members and their children and grandchildren through the scholarship program.

If you haven’t already registered to golf on the 23rd, there’s still time to sign up to golf yourself or as part of a foursome.  Contact Sheila at for complete details.


The second event is the Hamilton and Burlington Bay Area Economic Summit which will be held on Tuesday, June 21, 2016.

This is a full-day look at the evolving role of the Bay area in an increasingly regional  and international  economy, strategies to position the area for long-term success and how to drive the changes that will ensure that long-term success.   The tagline for the Summit is “Leading Change in a Regional Age” and the agenda is built around the theme of how to prepare for the future of the Bay Area.

The agenda is wide-ranging, touching on all aspects of economic development in our area, and includes two plenary sessions; 12 breakout sessions focusing on topics such as regional superclusters, waterfront development; transit hubs; changes in healthcare and a keynote address by Premier Kathleen Wynne.  There will also be an update from the federal government on stimulus funding opportunities available to this area.

This is the second year the Summit will be a joint venture between the Hamilton and Burlington Chambers of Commerce.  It promises to be an interesting and inspiring day.

I will be participating in the program and hope to see many of you there.  There are still tickets available; see the registration information on page 12 of this issue of REALINFO.


Best regards,


Musings from RAHB CEO George O’Neill

GeorgeCompetition Tribunal decision with respect to TREB’s VOW policies

You are most likely aware that on April 27, 2016, the Competition Tribunal released its anxiously awaited decision with respect to the Commissioner of Competition’s claim against TREB.  The decision was that certain aspects associated with TREB’s Virtual Office Website (VOW) policy include restrictions that constitute an abuse of dominant position under section 79 of the Competition Act.  The full decision remains confidential pending the outcome of further submissions requested by the Tribunal.  Those further submissions will assist the Tribunal to  determine the appropriate remedy, at which time their ruling is expected to be made public, and at RAHB we will be in a position to fully understand the decision and determine implications for our members.   As soon as we have that information, we will share it with you.

With just about perfect timing, Paul Feuer, Senior Competition Council from CREA, will be in Hamilton on May 10, 2016 to meet with our members to discuss competition issues and what is known about the TREB ruling.  You can sign up for this free, joint RAHB-OMDREB two-hour session by contacting Sheila at 905.529.8101 x234 or


Regional Matrix MLS® System update

After May 10, RAHB is expected to be the only association of the original eight founding regional boards/associations in the regional MLS® System not fully cut over to Matrix.  As communicated previously, we would not risk MLS® service interruption to our members during the busy spring market; therefore, we are currently considering a suitable cut over date later this summer.  This assumes the remaining business/governance issues discussed at the March RAHB AGM are either resolved or are well on their way to being resolved with ORTIS, the company established to manage the regional MLS® System.

Because the other STARRS boards (Brantford, Niagara and Simcoe) are scheduled to cut over to Matrix on May 10, listings their members take within RAHB’s trading area will no longer be displayed in Fusion after that date.  Therefore, if you are not already doing so, use Matrix for all search activities, and Fusion just to load and edit listings.  Note that Fusion listings are automatically uploaded to Matrix every fifteen minutes (but Matrix listings are not downloaded to Fusion), and this parallel period will continue until RAHB fully cuts over to Matrix.

To access Matrix, visit or click the link from your SSO dashboard.  Just remember – even though you can access Matrix through your dashboard, you will still have to sign in with your Matrix user ID and password.  Your Matrix user ID is the same as your Fusion user ID with “HB” at the beginning.

For additional information about using Matrix, be sure to review past issues of The Shift, which are posted on REALTOR Link®, under the MLS® tab.   You can also call RAHB’s MLS® department at 905.667.4650 with your questions.

Musings from RAHB CEO George O’Neill

GeorgeRAHB’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held on March 23 as part of REALTOR® CONNECTIONS.  Thank you to the 445 members who came out and made it such a great meeting.

For those of you who don’t know, RAHB’s Bylaws require the AGM include the presentation of the previous year’s audited financial statements, the appointment of the auditor for the current year, and an MLS® report.  Traditionally, RAHB has also included a brief look at the strategic initiatives for the coming year.

At this year’s meeting, RAHB President Kim Alvarez gave a high level look at the Association’s strategic imperatives developed to ensure your Association remains relevant and addresses your needs in a fast- and ever-changing environment.

RAHB Audit Chair Lou Piriano presented the audited financial statements, which had been made available through a link in the Annual Report emailed to all members on March 11.  He explained the factors that led to the year-end results, and recommended adoption of the audited statements as well as the appointment of Deloitte LLP as auditors for 2016, both adopted by majority vote.

I had the pleasure of providing an update on Matrix and the regional MLS® initiative.  I know Matrix has been a long time coming, and members are looking for information about when we will be going fully live. Remember you can now search for all regional listings within Matrix.  Thank you for all the great questions at the meeting; I think we all have a better understanding now of the scope of the issues surrounding this important project.

For more details about what transpired at the meeting, please read the synopsis on page 6 of this issue of REALINFO.

Over the next few issues of REALINFO, I will be talking more about RAHB’s strategic initiatives that Kim spoke about at the AGM.   The directors and staff have developed a completely member-centric mandate which we refer to as Member Development, Service, Engagement and Enablement, or MDSEE for short.  It’s quite exciting, as MDSEE focuses strictly on members and their needs.  I am looking forward to telling you more about it over the next few months.






from RAHB CEO George O’Neill

It’s March:  the beginning of the spring market and the perfect time to re-energize and focus on the busy market ahead.

It’s also the time to attend REALTOR® CONNECTIONS on March 23, 2016 at the Hamilton Convention Centre.  This event has lots to offer to help you succeed in your business.

REALTOR® CONNECTIONS is a great time for you to learn more about your association, meet with sellers of services you can use in your day-to-day business as a REALTOR®, learn something new in a professional development session or Knowledge Pod and meet with your colleagues, your Directors and the RAHB president.

And there’s more – Realty Shoppe specials and draws, a lunchtime panel of City Planners talking about their city’s’ plans for the future, two sessions on Matrix, lots of commercial content … every member should find something of interest and value at REALTOR® CONNECTIONS.

Here are my top three reasons you should attend REALTOR® CONNECTIONS:

  1. The RAHB Annual General Meeting. Our AGM is the best way for you to hear about initiatives for the coming year, to receive an update about Matrix and the Regional MLS® System and to learn about RAHB’s financial position.   The more you know about your association, the more you will understand how to maximize the value of your membership.
  1. CONNECTIONS Café. This is the place to come with your ideas or questions and discuss them with a RAHB Director, RAHB President Kim Alvarez or with me – we will all be at CONNECTIONS Café after the AGM, until noon.  Oh, and there will be an espresso machine in the room – you can come and enjoy a coffee, too.
  1. Value for the money. Or for no money, if you have registered before the March 7 deadline for free registrations.  Even if you have to pay the $35 plus HST fee after that date to attend, there is so much value packed into the day that you will get more than your money’s worth.

I am looking forward to meeting you at REALTOR® CONNECTIONS – I hope you are planning to attend.




Musings from RAHB CEO George O’Neill


I know you have been wondering when RAHB is going to change over to fully use the new Regional Matrix MLS® System … we’ve certainly been talking about it, and working on it, for a long time.   The reality is there are two major interdependent projects, underway simultaneously.  The first is upgrading our Fusion MLS® system to Matrix.  The second is defining and putting into place an acceptable working arrangement amongst eight regional real estate associations to manage a common MLS® system providing listings data across the eight association areas, a system I think you agree is critical to the business success of each and every one of you.

We are getting very close to providing a transition date from Fusion to Matrix.  Remember you can currently access in Matrix all active and sold listings within the regional areas of all eight participating real estate associations which includes Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Cambridge, Oakville/Milton, Niagara, Simcoe, Brantford and, of course Hamilton-Burlington.  But until we go fully live on the new Matrix system, you must continue to load into our existing Fusion MLS® system new listings as well as any amendments or status changes.  Those listings, and any subsequent changes, are automatically uploaded to Matrix every 15 minutes.   So although you can use Matrix today to both view and search all listings, you cannot use Matrix yet to load new listings.  I know this is not ideal, but I believe it is better than rushing the system into production while ignoring issues that would affect your livelihood.

Since the time we started in September to perform Matrix quality and functional assurance reviews from the perspective of RAHB members’ anticipated usage, 392 test cases identified issues our testing team and I felt would not be acceptable to you. The good news now is that the vast majority of those issues have been resolved, with only around a dozen outstanding.  The remaining items fall into three broad categories:  items RAHB identified and the other regional associations now all agree need fixing and we are working to resolve; items RAHB identified and not all of the regional associations currently agree they need changing and so we are trying to negotiate a common acceptable solution; and governance/business-model related concerns, meaning how we, as eight associations of varying sizes and market experiences, will operate together to manage and share the same business system that is so critical to you, our members.  Working together as a group of eight means each and every system change, from a simple rewording of a pick menu item, to more substantial business and MLS® rules and how listings data are displayed, must be negotiated until we have agreement from all of the eight associations.  One significant outstanding issue is updating and then accepting the current Regional MLS® Rules document – the same rules must apply and be adopted by all eight associations in order for the regional Matrix system to function effectively.

Upgrading to the new Matrix MLS® system, coupled with implementing an effective MLS® governance/business-model across eight real estate associations, is not a task to be underestimated, because it impacts the ability of each and every one of you to make a living.  The single driver for me to continue to make this happen is the expected benefit accruing to all of you, our members, who choose to take advantage of access to a broader pool of listings across the Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Cambridge, Oakville/Milton, Niagara, Simcoe, Brantford and, of course Hamilton-Burlington areas.  Enabling you to be more effective in your chosen market is what your association is all about.

In February I hope to be able to announce the exact date we will fully go live with Matrix.  Please watch your e-mail, and thank you for your patience as we try to get this system and the regional working arrangement right for you.


HAPPY 95th RAHB!95thlogo

You may already be aware that just a few days ago, on January 26, we celebrated RAHB’s 95th anniversary.  That’s quite a milestone!  If you were at our Gala this year on January 23, you have already heard a bit about this special occasion.

To put the date into perspective, in 1921 King George V was on the throne, and William Lyon McKenzie King was Prime Minister.  Canadians Banting and Best discovered insulin and Albert Einstein received his Nobel Prize in physics.  Canadian women were finally allowed to vote and run for office, and the first woman, Agnes MacPhail from Ontario, was elected to Parliament.  The Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the World Series, and to this day we remember the name Shoeless Joe.

A lot has changed in our world since these events.  RAHB has grown and changed as well to become the modern association of members it is today.   Our association is the third largest real association in Ontario with about 2890 members – around 100 members fewer than the second largest association in Ottawa.

What hasn’t changed over time is our association’s and members’ commitment to establish high standards of real estate practice, encourage cooperation among members, foster civic action and provide education and training programs.   RAHB’s founders had a vision that is timeless, and we today reap the rewards of what began in 1921.

Congratulations on our 95th anniversary!  I hope this is your best year ever, and your association is here to help you make that happen.  Let me know what more we can do to help.  I can be reached directly via email at or via phone at 905.529.8101 ext. 230.