Eight Ontario Realtors who sent a letter to the Canadian Real Estate Association this summer asking for changes to a problematic listings issue are not happy with the association’s response.
The group is seeking to make it mandatory for Realtors to list a property on the real estate board MLS system where the property is geographically located.
They maintain that the current system deprives local Realtors, as well as buyers and sellers, of important and necessary information about their own market.
However, in a letter dated September 10, CREA CEO Michael Bourque writes that the association does not have the ability to mandate that Realtors place their listings on particular MLS systems.
“Frustration,” says Sherry Rioux, broker at Clairwood Real Estate Corporation is what she and her seven Collingwood-area colleagues felt when they read the letter. “We weren’t surprised, and I won’t say defeated because we’re not done, mostly just frustration and that they (CREA) didn’t really address the issue.”
Without the listing information, says Rioux, local Realtors are unable to advise their buyers, and furthermore, sellers may not even realize their property isn’t being shared with local Realtors.
Bourque does suggest a number of other actions that Realtors who are dissatisfied with the current system can take. But Rioux says their letter to CREA had already outlined all those options and why each one was not viable or practical.
“We already know I can join three other boards,” says Rioux, “but even if I do, for my consumer, they’re not getting all the information when I set a client up on a property search. If I search several boards, they will in some cases get the same listing two or three times. How professional does that look? Then they think it’s the Realtor, they’re not listening, why is this not streamlined?”
Bourque says mandating that Realtors place their listings on particular MLS systems could be viewed as CREA interfering with independent business decisions of listing Realtors, and that requiring them to incur efforts and costs against their wishes raises a number of issues including potential competition law concerns.
“Joining another board is against my wish,” says Rioux, “I can’t do my job if I don’t join the others, and the cost is far less onerous to post a listing than joining another board.” Rioux also counters CREA’s “potential competition law concerns,” saying she’s been told this is not anti-competitive. “In my opinion it’s the exact opposite. I can’t compete if I don’t have the information.”
She does have one final question for the association. “If CREA can’t help us, who can? They’re the Canadian Real Estate Association, they should be able to guide us.”
Rioux says she learned that the Real Estate Council of Ontario doesn’t have jurisdiction over the MLS, so that leaves one other governing body – the Ontario Real Estate Association.
“Would OREA consider creating a provincial agreement for boards or associations to sign, agreeing to mandate members to post listings to the geographical board where the property is located? That is the question,” says Rioux.
Here she gleans some hope from the B.C. example, which resolved a similar problem when member boards of the British Columbia Real Estate Association signed a pledge of co-operation. “I think CREA should be reminded again what they agreed to with the B.C. Real Estate Association in 2000.”
A possible stumbling block is getting all the boards, including the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB), to agree. B.C. had only 12 boards, whereas Ontario has roughly three times as many.
Meanwhile the online petition Rioux and her colleagues started in June to urge CREA to resolve the problem has been gaining support. The number of signatures has grown from 341 in July, shortly after it was posted, to 1,265 in late September.
“We’re going to keep it up and post the response that CREA gave and explain why it’s not satisfactory and ask people to continue supporting the cause,” says Rioux.
“Our plan would be to increase the public’s access to the petition and inform them why this change is crucial when acting in a client’s best interest.”