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CREA steps back on a controversial new policy about home sale listings

Nov 26, 2022 | 2022 Toronto Star Property Law Columns

By Bob Aaron
Toronto Star contributing columnist

The plan to begin mandatory public listings of homes for sale on Jan. 1 will now be put to a vote at the next annual general meeting, writes Bob Aaron.

In the wake of a torrent of negative feedback, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has suspended its new policy requiring home sellers to list their properties on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) after just three days of exclusive marketing.

The rule change, which had been scheduled to begin January 1, 2023, will instead be put to a vote of CREA’s 75 local boards and associations across the country at its annual general meeting in the spring.

Late last month, I wrote about the rule change in a column with the headline, “Why forcing home sellers to publicly list their properties is a bad idea.”

I was highly critical of the new policy, noting that sellers should be able to decide for themselves whether or not their home would be listed exclusively with one trusted realtor and not placed on the MLS.

Shortly after my column appeared, Michael Bourque, the CEO of CREA, emailed the public editor at the Toronto Star, disagreeing with my column and complaining that it was inaccurate.

Most significantly, however, CREA seemed to be having second thoughts.

The email twice referred to the new regulations as a “proposed policy” although nothing in the initial announcement indicated that it was anything other than an approved rule which would take effect on New Year’s Day.

Other stakeholders also disagreed with the new rules. Well-known Toronto realtor Barry Lebow criticized the CREA policy in a post on a Facebook forum for realtors. The post quickly attracted 193 mostly positive responses.

Then two opposing op-ed pieces appeared in the online pages of Real Estate Magazine. In his opinion piece headlined “The public needs exclusive listings,” Lebow tore a strip off the new CREA rule, listing 12 types of sellers would not want to have their homes publicly listed on MLS.

He argued that celebrities, chronically ill sellers, seniors, hoarders, pet owners, art collectors, firearm owners and others may not want their properties exposed to sightseers unless they have been vetted as serious buyers by a trusted agent.

Calgary realtor Justin Havre wrote an opinion piece arguing that CREA’s new policy is good for business. In it he said that the new policy “seeks to bring integrity and value to the MLS.” (Not much about letting consumers decide what is in their own best interests.)

Many realtors contacted me to say they were blindsided by the policy, and totally unaware it was even under consideration.

Responding to some followup questions I submitted, CREA emailed me on October 29 to say the association “stands by its position and interpretation of this policy.”

But by November 10, CREA had taken a big step back. Pierre Leduc, its media relations person, emailed me saying that “the policy has been the subject of much discussion.” He added, “CREA’s board of directors has agreed to bring (the new rule) to the membership for a vote at the next AGM. In the meantime, we’re focusing our efforts on taking advantage of meetings and events, to further listen and engage with boards and members.”

It’s unfortunate that listening and engaging with boards and members wasn’t done before the attempted policy change.


Contact Bob Aaron

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer and frequent speaker to groups of home buyers and real estate agents.
He can be reached by email at bob@aaron.ca, phone 416-364-9366 or fax 416-364-3818.

Aaron & Aaron specialize in Real Estate Law, specifically Sale of Rental, Condominium, Residential, Rural Recreation, Offer to Lease, Commercial, and New Construction

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