Sunday, October 24, 2010

Agreement with the Competition Bureau Ratified by CREA

Members of the Canadian Real Estate Association have aceepted the agreement negotiated by CREA and the federal Competition Bureau with regards to access to the Multiple Listing Service.
I haven't seen the whole agreement yet but the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board has just issued a press release highlighting what it considers the main points.

As the GMREB has already indicated, this agreement will not have a significant impact on the way that real estate brokerage is practiced in Québec, for the following reasons: 
·         It does not give the public direct access to the MLS ® system or to the and websites; the MLS ® system remains a service that is reserved for members of a real estate board;
·         It does not require real estate brokerage agencies to change their business models;
·         It  does not change the fact that the listing broker is responsible for the accuracy of the information contained in a real estate listing and in the MLS ® system ; your obligation to comply with the Québec Real Estate Brokerage Act remains unchanged;
·         It does not preclude the Boards or CREA from having rules for the efficient operation of an MLS ® system, provided that these rules are not contrary to the agreement;
·         It does not impact compensation.
The fundamental point is that CREA and real estate boards/associations cannot prevent or discriminate against "mere postings" or against real estate broker members who offer mere postings. 
The GMREB has never restricted this type of business model and has never discriminated against others in this regard. We can assure you, however, that the GMREB will continue to make every effort to ensure the accuracy of information published in the MLS ® system so that consumers are well served and the professional image of real estate brokers is enhanced. The quality of the information found in the MLS ® system is what sets us apart from "for sale by owner" websites. 
Finally, the agreement stipulates that seller contact information is limited to the member-to-member portion of an MLS ® system and recognizes seller contact information will not be published on and 
As a real estate broker, you are still responsible for providing advice to your clients, and you still have the obligation to share compensation with the selling broker as well as inform sellers that they need to pay compensation to selling brokers. 
This agreement reached with the Competition Bureau concludes the litigation between CREA and the Competition Bureau, and ensures that the Bureau waives further legal action against CREA for "anti-competitive practices". The agreement will be in force for 10 years.

Here's what jumps out at me. The GMREB is making a point about the role and responsibility of agents in the real estate transaction. It looks like vendors will be able to post their properties on MLS, but they will still have to go through an agent to do it.
Some agents may choose to offer this service at a discounted rate but A) they still won't be paid until after the deal is concluded. No cash up front. B) Agents will still be responsible for the accuracy of the information on the MLS listing. Agents will still have to provide accurate tax and evaluation information, cadastral numbers and other pertinent listing details.
 In conclusion, the board reminds its agents that they/we are bound by the terms of the Brokerage Act, Quebec legislation ratified by the National Assembly. The act says that agents have an obligation to honestly and faithfully represent the interests of their clients. That obligation means that I can't just list your property and then leave the rest to you, the client. I can't waive my responsibility to you, even if all I've agreed to do is let you list your house under my name.


I'm not feeling the love. Here's a pithy comment from some disgruntled - is there any other kind? - Internet commentator on the Globe and Mail's site.

Realturds have replaced lawyers as the least respected vocation, for very good reasons. The sooner this group of clowns go the way of the dodo bird, the better.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fair's Fair, Except When It Ain't

The Financial Post had a recent story speculating on what kind of deal the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Real Estate Association have worked out regarding access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
Not much, according the lawyer type guy who led the charge to force CREA to open access to the MLS to consumers.
Again, I have no idea. CREA's membership, in the form of the big brokerage firms, will vote on October 24, during a regularly scheduled meeting in St. John's, Nfld.. I'll wait until the dust settles before commenting further on that.
Here's what caught my eye in the Financial Post story. Look who's making a fuss about the danger of opening the MLS up to civilians.

The other major ramification of the agreement could be a gradually squeezing of for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) sites, which could find themselves competing more and more as discount models on the MLS. That was one of the fears of National FSBO Network, whose vice-president of operations, Stephen Skelly, had argued in a letter to the Competition Tribunal that if agents list property on the MLS for a one-time fee and provide no additional service, his members would not be able to compete.

So, the guys who offer bare-bones, some might say nonexistent support to homeowners who want to sell their properties themselves,  are now worried that opening the MLS to homeowners could put them out of business. My heart bleeds. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Settlement Between the Competition Bureau and CREA is at Hand

It looks like the Canadian Real Estate Association and the Competition Bureau have reached a settlement that will make it possible for vendors to choose from an à la carte menu of services - and pay by the service - when they hire an agent.
That's what the newspapers say, anyway. If any of you hear news, send it my way. We agents seem to be last in the loop, informationwise.
Who knows, maybe CREA, which represents the country's 100,000 agents through their local boards, will open up the MLS system so that anybody can list a property for sale. I don't see it happening, though. People ought to be able to sell their own homes, but I fail to see why they should be allowed to list them on the MLS for a trifling fee. Agents pay dearly for the MLS through annual membership fees to their local boards, monthly fees to their brokers, monthly fees to Centris, the local MLS portal and through our quite expensive errors and omissions insurance. Let's not forget the money we pay for membership in the Organisme d'autoréglementation  du courtage immobilier du Québec (and was there ever a less catchy name for a professional governing body?).
You want to advertise your house on the MLS? OK, how about you pay the same fees I do?
As one astute observer pointed out in a comment to one of the news sites (CBC, maybe?), imagine if the Competition Bureau ruled that car owners had a right to fix their own cars and then, as an extension of that rulling, ordered mechanics to let car owners use their garages, winches, lifts and tools to fix their own cars. Would anyone think that reasonable?
I. Don't. Think. So.
One thing that tends to get lost in this debate is the fact that no agent gets paid until after a property is sold. That's the law here in Quebec. The Brokerage Act, the provincial law that governs the practice of real estate sales in la belle province explicitly forbids it. 
As the law stands, an agent can't take money up front for services to be provided, so I don't see how agents will be permitted to accept payment for listing a property on the MLS.