Real estate industry association won’t force listing boards to co-operate

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) says it can’t force real estate agents to post their listings on more than one real estate board, after a group of Collingwood-area realtors complained that limited access to out-of-town agents’ listings restricts the service they can provide consumers.

Agent Sherry Rioux, a member of the South Georgian Bay Association of Realtors, said Toronto agents often list homes in the Collingwood, Ont., area on the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB). But they don’t post them with the South Georgian Bay Association of Realtors.

That means she isn’t always aware of properties that would interest her clients and she doesn’t have comprehensive data about sales and prices to advise them on what to offer for a house or how much to ask for their home.

CREA says that, as a nonregulatory body, it doesn’t have the power to impose rules about where listings should be posted. That decision belongs to the listing agent.

“Local real estate boards are independent entities, its directors elected by local members. The decision to collaborate with other boards or not is theirs and theirs alone,” said CREA spokesperson Pierre Leduc.

When an agent lists a property outside their own board’s territory they have the option of filing an inter-board listing to the nearest real estate board at a cost of under $100. Agents also have the option of joining multiple real estate boards for a fee. The president of Rioux’s board, Matthew Lidbetter, has said he spends less than $1,000 a year to also join TRREB so he has access to the Toronto board’s data.

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Real estate boards in other provinces have sharing agreements and common listings systems. Leduc noted that about 20 Ontario boards have a data-sharing coalition known as Information Technology Systems Ontario.

But TRREB, by far the largest board in the province, is not part of ITSO, although it has been approached to join.

Leduc said he’s not aware of out-of-board listings being an issue anywhere else in Ontario.

“If boards choose not to, we are unable to force them,” he said. CREA also suggested that forcing boards to share listings could violate competition rules.

But Rioux, whose group has collected more than 900 signatures on an online petition, says they see it as the opposite — “You’re hiding your listings from the rest of the realtors in the area. How are you being competitive?”

She said CREA’s response didn’t address their concerns but it didn’t come as a surprise. “Deep down we had hoped that reason would prevail and (CREA) would realize this is a huge problem,” she said.

“They suggested we join other boards. We know we can do that. We are saying we shouldn’t have to,” Rioux said.

In B.C., real estate boards have signed a pledge of co-operation. By co-operating fully, agents there provide better service to their clients, she said.

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This province’s real estate regulatory body, Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), does not have jurisdiction over Multiple Listing Service or rules, said Rioux.

She said her committee is considering approaching the Ontario Real Estate Board (OREA) asking it to require members to post listings in the geographic board where a property is located. But when The Star asked OREA about Rioux’s group’s complain in August, it referred the matter to CREA.

Meantime, she said the industry’s inaction leaves consumers “exactly where they were before.”

“They have no access to comparable information when they’re a buyer. Unless their agent belongs to several boards they cannot get what they need to make a good, well-educated decision on what the purchase prices are in the area.

“It leaves the seller still not knowing and probably still in the dark about what the process is when the listing is taken and where that listing is held,” said Rioux.

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