A group of Ontario Realtors has started a petition to end a long-standing practice regarding listings that they say prevents Realtors from being able to do their jobs and puts home buyers and sellers at a distinct disadvantage.
“The biggest problem is when an out-of-town Realtor lists a property on their own board but not locally where the property is located,” says Sherry Rioux, broker at Clairwood Real Estate in Collingwood, Ont. She’s one of eight Blue Mountain area Realtors who have started a petition to all for an urgent change.
“Because we aren’t aware of the listing, therefore we’re not advising our buyers and we don’t even think the sellers realize that their property isn’t being shared with local Realtors.”
The issue has become particularly acute during the pandemic. Now that more people are working from home, many Torontonians, for example, realized they could work anywhere and have been moving to more affordable towns in the past 16 months. At the same time, some Toronto-based real estate agents have been taking listings from places outside the Greater Toronto Area and listing them on the Toronto MLS system, without also listing them on
the local board’s system. The result is that local Realtors are often left uninformed about what is happening in their own market.
The petition, started by Rioux and seven other members of the Southern Georgian Bay Association of Realtors (but not endorsed by the association), asks CREA to make it mandatory to list a home in the geographical area where it is located.
Rioux says the petition was posted online in late June and as of July 21, it received 341 signatures.
The Realtors also sent a three-page letter to CREA (and 41 brokerage members of SGBAR) outlining the problem in more detail and calling for change.
“Sellers are also at a disadvantage,” says Rioux, “when the listing agent is trying to find comparables and data, in order to decide the price to list or buy at when the local agent doesn’t have access to any of the data because it wasn’t listed locally. So we’re not operating in the buyer’s or seller’s best interest.
“When we’d negotiate an offer, the listing Realtor would say, ‘The house down the street sold for x dollars,’ and we’d say, ‘What house?’ We weren’t even aware of that sale because it was listed on another board and we didn’t have that data.”
These types of issues, says Rioux, put local Realtors in the position of possibly contravening CREA’s Realtor Code, through no fault of their own, because they are unable to protect and promote their client’s interests.
The issue is not new. “One of the agents who commented on one of our Facebook groups said he’s tried to change this for over 30 years,” says Rioux.
She says it was a letter to the editor on REM that prompted her to finally speak out. The letter was from a Realtor complaining about being unaware of a particular property for sale in his town because it did not appear on his local listings. That’s when Rioux and seven
other Realtors – all from different brokerages – formed an ad hoc group to try and “get things moving.”
The group believes the status quo is not working. Rioux says without access to the listings, the Realtor is left feeling “uneducated and unprepared about the local market.
“We can all pay huge fees to join other boards, but why should we have to … when I already belong to my own board?”
In addition, she says, clients often check realtor.ca, which is open to the public, but not a site that sales reps typically rely on. “It’s forcing us to go on all these public sites to find properties not listed on our local real estate board listings.”
The letter to CREA also suggests that fines be issued to any brokerage that does not list a property locally. “Inter-board listings,” the letter reads, “should be processed in a timely manner, such as within 24 hours of listing on a home board. Currently when a SGBAR member lists on TRREB, we can wait up to seven to 10 days to see our listing on their board. The offer date has often passed by the time it gets listed on another board!”
Will a truly provincial MLS ever happen? “Everybody’s been begging for one common data system,” says Rioux. “If all of Ontario used the same data system it could eliminate this problem, but until that’s done, it’s highly unlikely.”
Rioux says she has not heard back from CREA yet.