For those who haven't been following the news, there has recently been more press about the lawsuit between the Competition Bureau and the Toronto Real Estate Board over access to information on the MLS service. Frankly, as a real estate agent who may also be selling her condo soon, I don't necessarily want the entire world to have access to comments about the condition of my unit, when I am home and instructions for my pets but that's still not my main issue with the public being able to access this information and list on their own.
In an industry where we are taught to give the utmost attention to ethical conduct, detail and accuracy in our listings and diligent research, we also hear the horror stories of what can happen if something goes wrong. We are trained to negotiate ethically and to also ensure that there is a proper paper trail of all conditions, waivers, amendments etc. to reduce any risk of a mistake. We also answer to an ethics council which ensure that we behave ethically while practising real estate. We also maintain insurance to protect us and our clients from errors and omissions. Even with all these measures, errors occur occasionally and in real estate, when one closing often depends on funds from another, an error or misunderstanding can set off a chain reaction affecting people who have never even hear of the original culprit or their property.
Picture this: Person A has a firm deal to Purchase the home of Person B. Person A waived their financing condition without speaking with their lender but as closing day approaches, they realize there may be a problem because the bank's appraisal of the property indicates that it is overvalued and Person A cannot fund the difference. If Person A and Person B both have agents, likely the agents will be in touch regarding the problem and will either renegotiate the price to satisfy both parties, or negotiate who will keep the deposit and allow Person B to re-list immediately in order to mitigate the damages. If there are no agents involved, things could get tricky. What if Person A just sends a letter to Person B (or worse, what if they avoid the issue?) asking to be released from the deal? How do they agree on what is fair? What if Person B doesn't learn of this until closing day and they are now unable to close on the house they purchased from Person C? As you can see, things get much more complicated without agents.
Without agents, how would a buyer ever know if an mls listing were accurate? Who would hold the sellers accountable for errors and omissions or would buyers be forced to pursue legal action for every minor hiccup at closing? In my experience, most buyers find it uncomfortable to view a house when the seller is home so how would they feel about negotiating directly over something so personal?
Sure, buyers could still use agents but those agents would still expect to be paid and if sellers decided not to, that would fall on the buyers. Nobody works for free. And would those sellers really be saving money when they negotiate directly with a buyer's agent who is both a skilled negotiator and not emotionally invested?
What about the discount brokerages who post to MLS but leave sellers on their own for the rest? Well, aside from the fact that I would need to deal with my own showings, many buyers don't want their agent to deal with someone whom they perceive to be cheap and difficult. I've had many buyers not even want to look at these properties because they sense an ugly negotiaion may result. There's also the question of how they respond to inquiries regarding their own listings. If you have already paid a brokerage a flat rate fee to post a listing, how motivated are they to answer questions or even return phone calls about your home from people who find the listing on MLS?
To me, my home is my largest investment. I don't object to people listing on their own but it would never consider listing my own home without the assistance of a Real Estate Agent. Here's a video which outlines some of the many ways we can help: