Has the real estate industry created a protectionist environment? The answer clearly is yes – Canadian real estate systems are designed to protect the consumer.
The real estate industry, at the suggestion of the Competition Bureau, is once again taking a hard look at a structure designed to protect consumers and share quality information between Realtors. It is notable that this level of scrutiny was levied years ago by the bodies that govern and regulate realtors – hence our current structure and legally binding code of ethics. Yet, Ms. Aiken seems determined to undermine the credibility of the data, systems, and professional processes that are the foundation of the real estate industry as we know it. How will this help the consumer, why fight a battle already won, and what are the repercussions?
The current system for real estate in Canada should not necessarily emulate the US system any more than the banking system should. The Canadian MLS system is but one part of the real estate industry structure. It was designed to create, store, and share amoung Realtors the quality of market information required to serve and protect the consumer. The credibility of that data is central to accurately reflecting the market, and even more importantly, mitigates false or misleading data. Why undermine a cohesive, credible, and reliable data management process only to introduce more consumer risk and potentially influence market valuations? All this is intended to further the emergence of competitive models. But, these already exist.
Realtors operate in an openly competitive market, free to negotiate fees, provide services, and create innovative business models. To protect the consumer this is done under the umbrella of strict governance, education, and insurance. In fact, the credibility of the Canadian system is much envied by other countries such as Britain and the US.. Working within such a highly regulated industry bestows significant responsibilities upon Realtors. The MLS system currently extends privileges ONLY to members of this highly regulated and responsible body. This system is coveted as it is highly effective. The old adage, “garbage in garbage out” rings true to me in this case. If the system’s data and process is compromised, how effective will it be and how will that impact the fairly predictable system we have all grown to rely on?
Not every process is a “Do it yourself” opportunity. Realtors in the Canadian real estate system take responsibility as do other professionals. The process of selling a property is neither easy nor intuitive. It requires skill, prudence, education, and masses of documentation to comply with agency, privacy, Fintrac, ethics, codes and accurate data management.
The quest for competition has to intersect with common sense. The bureau should recognize the fact that the consumer has and always will have commission options. In this day of electronic consumerism, there are also many venues for consumers to list and market properties without using the MLS system. The MLS system is sought after because it is credible; that value proposition would soon be lost if opened up to less responsible data input and less responsible management of the selling and buying process.
Author Tina Gardin, Sutton group quantum realty broker of record. February 2010