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What an end to blind bidding for real estate could look like – CBC.ca

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Critics of the blind bidding process for real estate are pushing for what they say are viable alternatives that could create a better system for both sellers and buyers. 

In provinces across Canada, blind-bidding is the default practice when a home attracts multiple offers. In this scenario, buyers compete to offer the highest purchase price on a home without knowing the dollar amount of the other bids.

“I think there are serious issues with the way we are conducting things right now,” said Murtaza Haider, a professor of data science and real estate management at Ryerson University.   

Haider says an end to blind bidding could have some impact on volatility in housing prices, but more importantly, “greater efficiency and transparency would bring more trust to the industry, and that should be a priority for the real estate sector.”

This past election, the federal Liberals made their stance on the issue clear when they said they’d ban blind bidding as part of their housing platform.

In a new poll commissioned by the CBC, the majority of respondents supported an end to blind bidding. The survey of 1,511 Canadians was conducted between Sept. 17 and 19 using Leger’s online panel, and found that 52 per cent supported the elimination of blind bidding, 23 per cent wanted things to stay the same, and 25 per cent said they didn’t know.

Poll commissioned by CBC News and conducted Sept. 17 to 19 through Leger’s online panel of 1,511 respondents, with a margin of error of ±2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20. (CBC News)

For Jeanhie Park, the experience of offering $230,000 more on a property than she needed to underlines the need for change. 

“It would eliminate a lot of the deceit and misinformation that people receive when putting in an offer,” she said.

Park and her family went looking for a cottage in central Ontario this spring. Up against steep competition, they lost four bidding wars in a matter of weeks, so they were prepared when their real estate agent told them they were competing on the next property too. 

“We were advised to bid a couple of hundred thousand over list, and we just went a little bit over just because we wanted to get that property … under the assumption that there were two other registered offers.”

Park later learned, through the listing agent, that there were actually no other offers.

“We felt duped and manipulated,” Park said. “The fact that there were zero registered offers, that we were misled with false information in order for us to put in our top price.”

Jeanhie Park said that in a recent blind bidding deal, she believed she was competing against other bids when in reality she was the only bidder for a property. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

Park submitted a complaint in May to the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), an oversight body responsible for protecting the public interest and enforcing the rules that real estate agents must follow. 

RECO confirmed Park’s complaint, but said it can’t comment on its progress or specifics. It added that, “Misrepresenting the number of offers willfully is a breach of our legislation and offenders can expect to be disciplined.”

The real estate agent Park filed the complaint about also declined to comment while the investigation is open, aside from saying they were “cooperating fully with the provincial regulator.”

Even if the regulator finds wrongdoing on the part of the agent, Park questions how much difference it will make.

“They’re not going to reduce the price that we paid, and they’re certainly not going to pay for my mortgage.”

Real estate agents found guilty by RECO of breaching the realtor code of ethics can face discipline ranging from educational courses to fines up to $50,000.

“What does that do? It’s just nothing but a slap on the wrist,” Park said. “You know, we’re having to pay more money. We’re having to get a larger mortgage amortized over 30 years, well beyond our retirement target date, and it’s just completely unfair.”

From January 2020 to Aug 31, 2021, RECO says it received 172 inquiries related to the number of offers on a listing and says six of those have led to complaint investigations. 

Choice vs. transparency

Haider says cases like Park’s highlight issues with how real estate is sold. 

“The goal should be to get the highest price possible, but the highest fair price possible — not in a way that it discriminates by withholding information,” he said.

On the other hand, the real estate industry objects to a proposed ban on blind bidding, arguing that homeowners should get to decide how they want to sell their homes. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association says, “Canadians have the right to choose how they want to transact what is likely the largest purchase of their lives.” 

It’s an argument echoed by David Oikle, president of the Ontario Real Estate Association. “Auctions are available now, so the consumer gets to decide if they want to sell with or without representation. For sale by owners have been around forever and they’ll continue to be around. So I think that a seller gets to decide how they do it.”

David Oikle is president of the Real Estate Association of Ontario (OREA). The association represents more than 80,000 realtors in the province. (Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

Currently, selling via open bidding is synonymous with selling without representation from a real estate agent, because while provincial rules vary, regulations such as the Real Estate Brokers Act in Ontario make it illegal for realtors to disclose the dollar amount of competing bids. That means transparent bidding can only happen outside the current real estate sales framework dominated by agents.

Presently, there are more than 135,000 registered real estate agents across Canada who can sell via blind bidding, but only a few auction houses selling real estate.

Oikle says a change to open bidding will also not address Canada’s affordability crisis, and points to Australia as an example. In that country’s hottest markets, the vast majority of real estate is sold in auctions that are often held outside the property.  

“Auction fever creates a three-ring circus on front lawns,” Oikle said, adding that “auctions can drive prices higher and dangerously push buyers to make rushed decisions.”

This year prices in major Australian cities were up 20 per cent. Similar or larger increases were seen in Canada this past year too, with many cities seeing an increase between 20 and 30 per cent, including 27.9 per cent in Fredericton, 25.6 per cent in Hamilton, 35 per cent in Montreal, and 23.7 per cent in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.

“I think that that’s going off of a very narrow-sighted view of what auctions are and how they operate,” retorted real estate agent Daniel Steinfeld. 

Despite the restrictions, Steinfeld says he wanted the buyers and sellers he represents to have more choice, so in 2017 he and his partner Katie Steinfeld launched a company designed to offer transparent bidding.

“We wanted to introduce the fact that there is more than one way to sell a home.”

Daniel Steinfeld co-founded On the Block Auctions, which offers transparent bidding via an online auction platform. (Daniel Steinfeld)

However, complaints from industry stakeholders led RECO to tell Steinfeld that as an agent, he had to follow the industry rules around the disclosure of bids. So he became a licensed auctioneer and in 2019 he opened On The Block Auctions, alongside his brokerage with the same name. 

“The process works exactly the same as what people expect with the traditional listing,” Steinfeld said. “The property is staged, we take professional photos and videos, prepare all the marketing materials … and then the property is listed on MLS. The only big difference is that the property is now up for open bidding.”

The bidding process Steinfeld uses happens via an online platform where registered buyers can make their own offers and see the number and dollar amounts of competing bids. Bidders can increase the amount they want to offer as many times as they like, with the auction only ending once all bidding has stopped. 

“When you do away with the blind bidding process, in certain situations, you’re confident that the number that you’re putting forward is the price you needed to pay to win the home,” Steinfeld said.

A for sale sign put up by On The Block Auctions, a real estate company that offers a transparent bidding process through online auctions. (Dean Gariepy/CBC)

Earlier this year, Bev Holt sold her home in Burlington, Ont., using On The Block’s auction process. Holt said the transparent model appealed to her.

On auction day, Holt and her family gathered around the computer and watched the bids come in. 

“It was very exciting,” she said, “and the house went for more than we expected it would. Five minutes before the end of the auction a new bidder jumped in, and you can’t have that in the traditional process.” 

Phillip Kovek, a broker and managing partner at Ipro Realty in Toronto, agrees that open bidding doesn’t have to be complicated and suggests a way for traditional real estate agents to offer it.

“Sellers, through their listing agent, should be allowed to disclose the best offer on the table to all competing offers, with all participants given an opportunity to resubmit their offer or walk away.”

He adds that many real estate agents he’s spoken to support transparent bidding.

He believes the time for a hard look at this issue is now, because in Ontario the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services is currently reviewing the legislation that governs real estate brokerages, brokers and salespersons in the province. 

“If we don’t get involved now and help shape the offer process, [the] government could impose changes upon [us] that may not be in the best interest of our industry or consumers.”

No quick fix

While Steinfeld says a system like his shows transparency is possible, he acknowledges it’s unlikely to fix the issue of affordability. 

Haider agrees it’s no silver bullet, since “on a per-capita basis, we are building half as many homes now as we were building in the early ’70s.”

Murtaza Haider is a professor of Data Science and Real Estate Management at Ryerson University. He said blind bidding is stacked in favour of sellers at the cost of buyers. (Doug Husby/CBC)

Haider says the only way to fix the affordability crisis is with an increase in supply, but adds that an end to blind bidding could help take some of the heat out of local markets.

“The house will always go to the person with the highest reserve price, that’s not the issue,” he said. “The question is, should that person be $300,000 or $500,000 more than the second-highest? What happens then is that it has raised that threshold for every other subsequent sale. So all those homes that will be listed the following day, they would escalate the price.”

Haider adds that while the Liberal government has expressed its desire to end blind bidding through a federal ban, he believes it would make the most sense for change to come from provincial governments, since they create legislation around real estate and govern the rules the industry must follow.

“I think the best thing is to go back to the provincial regulators and say, is your current practice guaranteeing fairness, protecting the rights of sellers and buyers alike?

“If that’s the case, sure, write it off saying no need to do anything more. But if it’s not, then let’s build transparency and trust because that’s what the industry relies on.”


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Real estate secrets; Family blindsided after others profit off obituary; CBC's Marketplace Cheat Sheet – CBC.ca

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Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

Want this in your inbox? Get the Marketplace newsletter every Friday.

Real estate agents caught on hidden camera breaking the law, steering buyers from low-commission homes

Marketplace’s latest investigation is uncovering some shady real estate practices.

Posing as homebuyers and sellers, Marketplace tested if real estate agents are engaging in steering, an anti-competitive practice that steers potential homebuyers away from properties that offer agents lower commission. The team’s hidden cameras found some agents deceiving the buyers they are supposed to represent in an effort to pad their own bottom line.

Experts and industry insiders say what Marketplace has uncovered is indicative of an industry working for the benefit of real estate agents at a cost to home sellers and buyers.

“There’s a huge inertia, and maintaining the status quo, it absolutely benefits existing realtors 100 per cent,” said broker and real estate agent Michael Walsh, one of the few speaking out on this issue.

After learning about our findings, the Real Estate Council of Ontario issued a notice about steering to more than 93,000 real estate agents, brokers and brokerages under its purview, noting that such behaviour breaches their code of ethics. Read more

Real Estate Secrets

2 days ago

Investigation catches real estate agents breaking the law to keep commissions high, hamper competition and block private sellers. 22:30

Family blindsided after marketing company, funeral home cash in on father’s obituary

Before pancreatic cancer took his life in April, John Rothwell made his dying wishes clear: if mourners wanted to donate to a cause in his name, the money should go to an educational fund he and his family set up.

Instead, family and friends unwittingly paid for a product that puts money into the pockets of companies profiting from grief, says son Nathan Rothwell

Rothwell told Go Public that while he knew the obituary would be on the website of the Mackey Funeral Home in Lindsay, Ont., he made sure it included a request for mourners to consider donating to the educational fund, in lieu of flowers. 

What no one told his family is that Frontrunner — a Kingston, Ont.-based marketing company that runs the funeral home’s website and many others across the country — uses obituaries to sell what it calls “memorial” trees and other products.

The obituary included links that said, “Plant a tree in the memory of John Rothwell” and led to a different website where mourners paid for products the family knew nothing about, said Rothwell. 

“Family and friends spent money out of their own pockets for what they thought were my dad’s wishes,” Rothwell said.

After Rothwell complained and got a lawyer involved, Frontrunner doubled what mourners paid for the trees, and donated that money — more than $2,000 — to the educational fund. The company maintains that it did nothing wrong. Read more

Nathan Rothwell says his dad wanted memorial donations to go to an educational fund. Instead, some money went to private companies using obituaries to sell memorial-themed tree plantings. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

The U.S. land border is reopening, but Canadians with mixed vaccines are still in limbo

While it’s welcome news that the U.S. will reopen its shared land border with Canada to non-essential travel on Nov. 8, some Canadians with mixed vaccine doses aren’t celebrating just yet.

That’s because at the same time the U.S. reopens the land border, it will start requiring that foreign land and air travellers entering the country be fully vaccinated. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) currently doesn’t recognize mixed COVID-19 vaccines — such as one dose of AstraZeneca and one dose of Pfizer or Moderna — and hasn’t yet said if travellers with two different doses will be blocked from entry when the vaccine requirement kicks in. 

“CDC will release additional guidance and information as the travel requirements are finalized later this month,” spokesperson Jade Fulce said in an email on Wednesday. Read more

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent directs vehicles re-entering the United States from Canada at the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit on Aug. 9. Starting in early November, Canadians entering the U.S. by land and air will have to be fully vaccinated, but there’s uncertainty over whether two doses of different vaccines will count. (Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

What else is going on?

What we know about kids and COVID-19 vaccines
If parents feel heard and understood, they’re in a much better position to make decisions, say pediatricians

Zellers returns — kind of — but the lowest price isn’t quite the law 
Discount store brand reappears months after HBC appears to lose trademark registration.

Sweatpants forever? Why the ‘athleisure’ fashion trend may outlast the pandemic
The pandemic has changed fashion trends — and experts say our desire for comfort is here to stay.

Canada seeks to claw back $25M in COVID relief from thousands of fishers 
More than half of the harvesters affected by the repayment request are in Nova Scotia.

Specialized Tarmac SL7 Bicycles recalled due to fall hazard
Consumers should immediately stop using the bicycles and contact an authorized Specialized retailer.

Marketplace needs your help

Have you ever signed up for a session with a life coach? We want to hear all about your experience! Email us at marketplace@cbc.ca.  

Watch this week’s episode of Marketplace and catch up on past episodes any time on CBC Gem.

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This Week’s Top Stories: Canadian Real Estate Tops The List of Global Bubbles, and IMF Warns of Correction Risks – Better Dwelling

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This Week’s Top Stories: Canadian Real Estate Tops The List of Global Bubbles, and IMF Warns of Correction Risks  Better Dwelling



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Real estate secrets – CBC.ca

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Canada has among the highest real estate commission rates in the world.

Our investigation found real estate agents breaking the law by steering buyers from low-commission homes. Hidden cameras caught them in the act.

Watch our full investigation anytime on CBC Gem.

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