MLS Now Open To Public – CREA Agreement

by Mike Holman

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The recent agreement to open up the MLS real estate database to agents working for a flat fee, means that it will be lot easier for people to sell their homes without hiring a commissioned agent.

Previously, sellers without commissioned agents couldn’t list their homes on MLS which made selling without an agent, a lot more difficult. From my experience, most buyers use MLS as their exclusive search destination when looking for potential houses.

Benefits for sellers

This change allows home owners to sell their house without paying an agent up to 2.5% for the privilege of listing on MLS. Even if they pay a buying agent up to 2.5%, they can still save quite a bit of money.

It will be interesting to see if the standard 2.5% for the buyer’s agent continues or if that gets changed to a fixed fee as well. What would make more sense to me, is for buyers to pay their own agent for services rendered. Maybe buyers should pay for each house viewed?

Benefits for buyers

This might make it easier to buy a house without an agent. However, since the invention of dual-agency status (otherwise known as double-dealing) this benefit might not be very significant since it’s pretty easy to buy a house without an agent.

Give me access to MLS sales data

At one time I had full access to the MLS sales data, due to the generosity of a friend. As I was changing houses at the time, this information was invaluable. I would hate to pay an agent a huge chunk of money just to get access to comparables, but it might just be worthwhile.

What I’d love to see is an option for someone to pay for an MLS login. If I was in the process of buying or selling my house, I would have no problem paying $50 per month to be able to look at relevant sales data.

So how about it CREA? Sell your data before Zillow starts doing it.

Will this result in lower real estate fees?

No.  In the US, this change happened a few years ago and commission rates for real estate agents have not gone down.  The only difference is that people who want to sell their home on their own have an easier time doing it.

This is analogous with the Canadian investment industry.  At one time, there were no do-it-yourself cheap options for investors.  Now we have discount brokerages, cheap ETFs and index funds.  Has this lowered the price for the “full-service” investment model?  No, all it means is that if you are willing to do it yourself, you can save a bundle of money.  Most investors choose not to do that.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 JP

This is an interesting change indeed and I think it you’re right in that most people tend to go straight to MLS when seeking for a property to purchase.

Investors’ who are willing to refrain from using an agent can certainly save a good chunk of change if it’s done right. I still think there is a large % of people that aren’t comfortable ‘going it alone’ and need the assistance of an agent and we will always see agents and their rates consistent as ever. Hey, it’s just business, right?

Nice post.

2 Mike Holman

Thanks JP.

Bottom line is that using an agent and selling FSBO are two separate things. An agent will always cost a lot more.

3 Echo

Mike, what are your thoughts on seeing discount real estate services popping up and forcing some competition amongst all agent commissions? For example, out West there is a company called One Percent Realty, which charges $6,900 for any home priced under $600k, and for homes priced over $600k they charge 1% plus a $900 fee.

Here’s a link: http://www.onepercentrealty.com/about.cfm

I can see this catching on big time.

4 Mike Holman

@Echo – That one percent company doesn’t seem like a great deal. $6900 selling commission on a $300k house is 2.3% which isn’t much of a saving on the normal 2.5% selling commission.

I’m not sure which pricing models will win out, but the thing that bugs me about the current system is that the agent gets paid a percentage comm, when in fact it’s the same amount of work to sell an $800k house compared to a $400k house.

I really believe that a flat fee system is the way to go. I suspect that most people (including myself) would rather hire an agent to do the work – I just want to pay less.

In the latest MoneySense, they mentioned a company called Smart Sell Realty which offers a cheap MLS listing for diyers and also a full-service package for about $2k – regardless of the house price. That’s more like it!

5 Echo

@ Mike
I think they got their start in Vancouver where $600k houses are the norm. Out here in Lethbridge with my $250k house, it doesn’t seem like a great deal. However, they are getting the attention of realtors in Alberta, and perhaps this could lead to more competition in terms of discount services.

I agree, a flat fee makes the most sense…we’ll see what happens down the road.

6 larry macdonald

Mike
Thanks for your post. I’ve been trying grasp what the MLS change means on the buyer side and your post helps clear up some things. As I understand, it seems house buyers can still only buy a house on MLS through a buyer’s broker. But shouldn’t house buyers have the choice of being able to buy a house without an agent? The Competition Bureau fought for the home seller’s right to DIY but not for the homebuyer’s right to DIY. This gives MLS the clout to continue extracting a fee close to 2.5% on the buyer’s side. Yet all that buys is just access to MLS, basically. Isn’t that exorbitant if you a DIYer and confident in your ability to find a house on your own ? (I think you are suggesting this too by saying house buyers should be able to buy a la carte service from the buyer broker). The analogy here might be like forcing all investors to buy mutual funds from financial planners. No ETFs or directly sold funds for you. And it sets up the same kind of ridiculous conflict-of-interest situation where agents will be prone to show their clients only the funds (or houses) that pay them the most. It seems the Competition Bureau has a lot more work to do? Or perhaps the FSBO outfits can continue to chip away at the rents still being extracted by MLS until the edifice crumbles — but that could take many years.

7 Mike Holman

Larry, buyers have always had access to MLS to find a house without an agent.  The problem is that if they want to buy a house that has a seller’s agent, they have to use the seller’s agent as their own buying agent – so there isn’t much money saved.

This ruling doesn’t change that, however if more people use non-full-service agents, then a buyer with no agent will have a better chance to deal with a seller that has no agent, which should save quite a bit of money.

8 Dr Dale Rathgeber

Good post. Sellers in Alberta pay as much as 7% on their first 100K, and 3% on the balance when they list a house.

Kudos on your book; hard-working, busy Cdns saving for their kids’ futures will benefit. Thanks.

9 Mike Holman

@Dr Thanks – I really hope the book helps people with the RESP puzzle.

10 larry macdonald

Mike
Thanks for clarification

11 Ross Wilson

As a 36+ year real estate broker, I think I can clear up some issues here.

First of all, a buyer can be represented as a client or a customer. If the former, they would enter into a buyer agency agreement with a REALTOR, which would include the compensation for the REALTOR. Often, this is 2.5% + HST. So, if a buyer discovers a home listing on REALTOR.ca, the public domain of the industry’s MLS system, s/he could either work with the seller’s brokerage as a customer or client (if no agency agreement was already in place), or be represented by their own brokerage. Either way, they’ll need professional representation.

A very large percentage of buyers begin their home search on REALTOR.ca, probably 90+%, until they establish a relationship with a real estate sales person. This has been steadily increasing over the years. So, the new CREA agreement with the Competition Bureau really hasn’t changed much in this regard. What it did change is now discount or flat fee brokerages are permitted to list property on the MLS system for a nominal fee, and not provide full service. Usually, though, they have an ‘a la carte’ menu of service available from which a seller may choose, and pay more fees.

We are obligated to show any and all listings to our contractual clients regardless of the commission offered by the listing brokerage and seller. We are also compelled to enter into a buyer agency agreement at the earliest opportunity, or at least discuss this topic with a buyer. Obviously, the buyer is not obligated to sign one, but the REALTOR must then make the decision whether or not s/he chooses to continue to work with that buyer. The REALTOR must, though, explain to their buyer client, that if the buyer wishes to view a property where the commission offered is lower than that included in the buyer agency agreement, the buyer will be responsible to pay their agent the agreed commission. The exception to this is if the listing brokerage has invited the buyer agent to contact the seller directly to negotiate a commission. If this proves successful, the agent must meet with the seller to execute a commission agreement prior to the viewing.

You should also be aware that a very small percentage (<5%) of REALTORS actually earn a good living selling real estate. The rest often sell fewer than half a dozen homes annually, and many sell nothing. It's reality. If there were fewer real estate sales people, the industry could certainly charge lower fees. But in a climate of rising costs, and downward pressure on fees, it's not an easy business. And now we have the added competition of discount brokerages, who, by the way, rely heavily on huge volume to remain in business.

I could continue to write extensively here, but must move on to other responsibilities. The bottom line, however, is that sellers and buyers will get what they pay for. REALTORS earn the bulk of their commission during the evaluation/listing and negotiation portions of the process – not the marketing period. Anybody can advertise a property, but just try negotiating without a middle-man. Typically, it proves to be an exercise in futility. Most private sale usually fail, otherwise, there would not be a real estate industry. Most people want and appreciate the experienced guidance, protection and services offered by REALTORS. I know my network of former clients do. They usually return to me – year after year.

There will always be room for REALTORS, especially in a balanced or down market, such as we have now in Ontario and the vast majority of the rest of North America.

Forgive my verbosity, but I have a lot to say. If you wish to visit my knowledge-based real estate website (which is under construction http://www.realty-voice.com), I'm sure many of your other questions will be answered.

12 Peter Gilbert

Mr. Wilson,

I can appreciate that you are obviuosly well versed in your business. You are no doubt one of the few realtors who would be worth your while. You should not group all realtors under one umbrella. As you mentioned, there are a few who are successfull. I would like to ad that from my perspective, most are not and they are not worth anything. Realtors are not responsbile for anything they say or do. They have a code of ethics, but are far from what could be called a professional organisation. Professionals are liable for their actions.

Most realtors I have scrutinized aren’t worth a pinch. They are either ignorant or unaware of the rules that they operate within (municipal bylaws, zoning, rural planning procedure etc.) their perspective is that which serves their interest – to sell. The commisions they are paid are outrageous (in the large majority of cases) and need to be restructured to reflect actual services performed.

These statements are true (from my perspective) only because of the vast number of underqualified realtors that are present in the industry.

With all due respect, that is how I see it.
Have a great day,
Peter Gilbert

13 Ross Wilson

Thanks for your comments, Mr. Gilbert. I’m unsure what part of the country you hale from, or for that matter, what country. I can say, though, that Ontario REALTORS do, for the most part, follow a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice under penalty of fines, criminal prosecution, cancellation of registration or combination thereof. However, like any industry, even the legal or medical professions, there are always those who fail the grade. REALTORS can be held responsible for their actions or inactions, but many seem to slip through the cracks because the public or their peers fail to report them. With the ever-increasing education standards required to become a real estate sales person, the calibre will continue to improve.

I regret that you’ve obviously had difficulties in the past with REALTORS. But I ask that you not paint us all with the same broad brush. If you’re in the GTA, I’d be pleased to meet with you sometime if you’re ever in need of real estate services. Feel free to visit my website to learn a little more about me. Be well.

14 Peter Gilbert

As it turned out my wife informed me that we were moving! She had found a house she loves. We decided to contract with the same realtor that was representing the house she wanted.

In brief, the realtor we contracted with did not do any groundwork to sell our house. She puts the property on MLS and waits for phone calls. She provides no information that can not be obtained from my lawyer and banker. She knows how to say OOOO when she looks out a window. She is a salesperson. She tries to build your dream, while quashing and hint of reality.

Her firm asks 4%. For what? She produced zero viewings in 2 weeks. 2 inquiries came to her through MLS.

For a small flat fee we can get a realtor to post what we want on MLS and decline any additional services (which were non existent anyway). So after 2 weeks of monitoring her performance we asked that they remove our listing. We are not allowed to contract with another realtor for the remainder of our existing contract (which we would never do anyways.)

We thought we would give a realtor a try again. We thought she would be motivated if she could represent both of us. We thought it would improve our chances of selling. That was not the case.

Since that time I printed off a flyer and did up my own website. We paid a flat fee to a realtor for the listing. I dropped off the flyers at every hardware store, feed store, natural products stores etc. I could find. I took 10 calls the first week and have done 1 viewing with 2 more lined up for next weekend. Our lawyer is more well versed with the actual ins and outs of real estate transactions than any realtor I have met. He guides us through the process.

Anyone who does not have the ability to represent themselves should contract a realtor. Everyone else should get a real estate lawyer and pay a flat fee to a real estate agent for an MLS listing.

Peter Gilbert

15 Mike Holman

We are not allowed to contract with another realtor for the remainder of our existing contract

Peter, you should check your contract. I believe that if you sell your house within the period of the contract – you will still owe the amount that the commission would have been, had the realtor been used.

16 David

I would like to no if you have a contact in Victoria to list my lot on the mls for a fee and how much please. I want the service and would like to sell it myself.

Thank you

David

17 William Saunders

Some good points raised here!
The overall sentiment seems to be in favour of being in more control of your fee payments for real estate transactions. Of course, you get what you pay for … more services (like showings, open houses, etc) and higher skilled services (like negotiation, closing, deep local knowledge, etc.) come at their corresponding costs.
I tried a flat fee mls listing service when I sold my last place – called letmelist.ca – and it worked for what I needed and wanted. I am very comfortable showing my own place, and they provided the templates for brochures and legal documents.

18 polaris

please tell how can we delete the MlS list in the system because some information is wrong.

Thanks

19 Linda

Could somebody let me know if there are any of these MLS listing services available in BC? The ones mentioned above are all in Ontario. Realtors here — in small town BC at least — charge between 7% and 9%! Disgusting for what they do.

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