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How can you avoid having your home listed on the MLS database?

May 13, 2023 | 2023 Toronto Star Property Law Columns

By Bob Aaron
Toronto Star contributing columnist

Despite the new rule, there are ways for home-sellers to avoid being forced to list their property on Multiple Listing Service (MLS), says Bob Aaron.

At its annual general meeting last month, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) voted to implement a highly controversial realtor co-operation policy requiring all residential sale listings to be placed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) after just three days of exclusive marketing.

When the proposal was first introduced last November, a huge backlash from real estate agents across the country caused CREA to refer the decision to its annual meeting in April and postpone potential implementation by one year to Jan. 3, 2024.

CREA is a voluntary association of 75 Canadian real estate boards and associations representing 160,000 members. At its meeting last month, the policy change was approved by more than 82 per cent of voting delegates, not by the individual member agents.

The new policy places realtor members on the horns of an ethical dilemma: do they follow client instructions not to list properties on MLS and market them solely through the listing brokerage, or do they stick to the new policy and post the listing on MLS after three days?

In a Facebook post shortly after the policy was proposed last year, Toronto realtor Barry Lebow tore a strip off the CREA rule, listing 12 types of sellers who may not want their homes publicly listed on MLS.

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

Social media postings have exploded with criticism of the policy. On the website realestatemagazine.ca, Toronto-based real estate agent Penny Dutkowski agreed with Lebow’s reasoning, writing “there is no justifiable reason … for this unfortunate, myopic, industry-selfish move.”

Cory Raven wrote, “a dark day for realtors,” adding “I was at a Re/Max broker group meeting in January and 100 per cent of the brokers in the room were against (the policy.)”

Patrick Hulley nailed the problem with: “Going to MLS should be a decision made between the real estate agent and the client.”

“Thirty-five years as a realtor,” wrote Don Johnson, “and this MLS policy is absolutely in the wrong direction.”

There are some ways for home sellers to avoid being forced to list on MLS.

Exclusive listings are still permitted by sellers with privacy concerns and who do not want broad exposure of their property to the public.
Any seller who declines to use the MLS system to market their property has to provide confirmation they understand the alleged disadvantages of not using it, and confirm in writing their decision not to market the property publicly.

But agents are not required to inform clients that they have this choice.

Another way around the realtor co-operation policy is for sellers to pre-sign a series of successive, exclusive three-day listings to avoid the need to switch to the MLS after the expiry of each listing.

In my opinion, if realtors across the country really care about their clients, they will toss out their delegates to the CREA national body as soon as possible, and elect representatives who place the public interest first.



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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