Questions and Answers for Consumers
1. What is the MLS® and why am I not able to access it?
The Multiple Listing Service (MLS®) is an online business tool developed for REALTORS®, including CENTURY 21 sales representatives, to upload and share listing information on properties and collect market data. There are multitudes of MLS® sites across the country, each operated by different Real Estate Boards. Generally, a local REALTOR® includes the MLS® as part of his or her overall service contract. The Canadian Real Estate Association created an advertising website, REALTOR.ca, so that consumers and real estate sales representatives could view all MLS® listings in one place and contact agents associated with those listings.
CENTURY 21 Canada also has agreements with Real Estate Boards across Canada to collect MLS® data. That data enables us to provide detailed and accurate property information on all our sales representatives’ sites at Century21.ca.
2. With the new CREA rules, can I now post my home on the MLS® system without going through a REALTOR®?
No. The MLS® was developed as a member-to-member platform for licensed REALTORS®. Like all REALTORS®, CENTURY 21 sales representatives are bound by ethical and legal standards of conduct, which applies to listing information published on the MLS®. The MLS has become such a strong brand because of the integrity of its information. While CENTURY 21 Canada isn’t opposed to posting listings to the MLS for a fee, allowing direct public access to the MLS® risks undermining industry standards, as well as the security of potential home buyers – virtually every public advertising site runs the risk of exposing its customers to scam artists and unscrupulous sellers.
3. So, when will I be able to pay you just to list my home on the MLS®?
You have always had that choice. All real estate service fees are negotiable between REALTORS® and their clients. As well, a consumer has the option to list their property for sale on a range of websites that don’t require the assistance of a licensed real estate agent. CENTURY 21 sales representatives aren’t going to prevent clients from choosing this option; however, we would discourage individual home owners from publishing their properties online without a clear plan as to how they are going to manage the sales process, qualify prospective buyers and complete the required documentation for closure.
4. Why do REALTORS® charge so much commission for providing services that I could just as easily do myself?
REALTORS® receive extensive training to be licensed to operate in Canada and work hard for the commissions they earn. The vast majority of REALTORS® are not getting rich on commission fees. According to the National Real Estate Association 2009 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 69% of homeowners who chose to go the ‘for sale by owner’ route indicated that they did so to avoid paying commission fees; and 74% of those reported having difficulty with the selling process. Getting the price right, preparing a home for sale, understanding and completing paperwork and selling within the length of time planned were common difficulties expressed by survey respondents. Buyers are aware of the value of commission fees, and will often offer less than market value on ‘for sale by owner’ listings. There is value in hiring an agent with superior sales skills and knowledge of your market.
5. Why is the Canadian Real Estate Association trying to stop consumers from being able to choose the services they want to sell their homes?
This is a myth that has gained momentum because of the Competition Bureau issue. The MLS® was created by CREA for its members to post their listings and share data. Like with any competitive business landscape, there is an array of online advertising choices other than the MLS® for independent home sellers, including social media sites, Craigslist and Kijiji. As well, Canadians have always had the option to compare and negotiate real estate service fees offered by different business models.
6. When do the new rules come in? Should I wait until then to list my property for sale?
The new MLS® rules voted on by members of the Canadian Real Estate Association on March 22 are now in the process of being ratified by provincially-based real estate Boards. The process could take a few months to complete, as some Boards will have to call general meetings to revise their rules. It may take up to a year for a decision to be made by the Competition Tribunal of Canada, and that could be followed by an appeals process. With interest rates anticipated to rise by mid-2010, coupled with the introduction of the HST in BC and Ontario on July 1st, waiting to sell your home – with or without a REALTOR® – might net you a lower selling price or increase the time it takes to sell your home. In addition, the rules and regulations that are in the process of being amended reflect service options that are already available today.