Competition Bureau and the MLS System: What has Really Changed?

You may have heard on the news lately that the real estate industry is being challenged by the Competition Bureau to change some of its rules with respect to the Multiple Listings Service (MLS).Although the media makes it sound like many changes are taking place with the MLS system, this is simply not the case. Changes were made long ago in British Columbia. However, some provinces are playing 'catch-up' to our existing rules.

Nothing of significance has changed in BC. People who are not members of a Real Estate Board (i.e. "the general public") continue to be able to post their home for sale on the MLS system by going through a brokerage that belongs to a Real Estate Board.Low cost, "posting only" services have always served, and will continue to serve, BC clients. Such companies come and go.A few of them are popping up again now and are trying their best to leverage the attention the media has garnered through this topic.

The Real estate industry has always been a highly competitive industry.Over 10,000 agents in Metro Vancouver compete to market homes for their sellers and to sell the perfect homes to their buyers.At the same time, agents co-operate professionally on a regular basis to successfully bring parties together in negotiations and sell real estate.This tug-of-war between co-operation and competition can sometimes create opportunities for anti-competitive activities.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has for many years had rules that all agents in the business are obliged to follow, or else face severe consequences, much like any professional organization:

1) Competing REALTORS® are not allowed to get together and agree to "fix commissions" (i.e. agents cannot collude to set a "standard commission")

2) Similarly, brokers and REALTORS® should also not refuse to deal with or boycott a discount broker because of that broker's low pricing or commission policy. (i.e. agents cannot discriminate)

3) REALTORS® must follow strict rules around advertising. For example, if the literal wording of the ad is accurate although the overall impression created by the ad is misleading a realtor will be disciplined by the Real Estate Council. (i.e. agents can't mislead)

These rules make sense and allow agents to work together in the best interest of their existing clients, but at the same time compete with one another for new clients.

"In order to comply with the Competition Act,real estate agents must follow three basic rules:

1) Don't Collude, 2) Don't Discriminate, 3) Don't Mislead"

Having competed in several Ironman triathlons over the years, and worked as a residential property developer for most of my career, competition is nothing new to me.Not only is racing a triathlon in itself competitive, but also there are thousands of companies competing to sell you products that promise to make you faster and perform better.

One thing that I have learned, both as a real estate agent and a triathlete, is that nothing beats integrity, (being true to yourself and others), hard work, and consistency.


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