Canadian Real Estate Agents: Without Us, Poor Homeowners Would Be Getting Attacked And Killed

from the oh-really-now? dept

It’s often amazing how legacy industry organizations come up with the most far-fetched and ridiculous reasons to insist that giving the public more information isn’t actually in the public interest. Rob Hyndman points us to an effort by real estate agents in Canada who are fighting back against a plan to put house listing information online by claiming that this will expose home sellers to crime, as suddenly criminals will break into their homes. This is based on… absolutely nothing. Well, actually, it’s based on a false claim that realtors are getting attacked and killed already. The Globe and Mail report on this story could have done a better job calling the realtors on their crazy claims, but goes with a more understated approach:

“Easy access to information online is a huge safety issue,” said Von Palmer, the real estate board’s chief privacy officer. “There is a real possibility of break-ins and assaults; you only have to read the headlines to imagine what might happen. You hear stories about realtors getting attacked and killed. Can you imagine if we put that information out there about consumers? You can only imagine the headlines.”

A spokesman for the Toronto Police Service said he wasn’t aware violence against real estate agents was a problem in the city.

Also, they could just look south of the border. The information that the Canadians are now discussing putting online is, for the most part, already available online here in the US. And while I’m sure if they tried hard enough, somewhere, somehow, someone might be able to connect a real estate listing to crime, it’s certainly not a common occurrence.

It’s pretty clear that the real issue is just one of control. The real estate agents benefit from being the gatekeepers to that information, and they fear what happens when people can start to route around them. A few months back, I did a talk at a real estate conference, where I compared the music industry to the real estate industry, and it was amazing just how many similarities there were between the two. They were two big legacy industries trying to hold back the tide of what the internet allows, and they were able to come up with all sorts of ridiculous scenarios to explain how horrible the world would be if the information they used to control was allowed to go free online. But it’s tough to stop the free flow of information, and real estate agents will learn soon enough that a strategy of spreading FUD isn’t a way to future-proof your business. Learning to adapt, and to take advantage of the spread of information by becoming an enabler rather than a gatekeeper, really is the key.

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Comments on “Canadian Real Estate Agents: Without Us, Poor Homeowners Would Be Getting Attacked And Killed”

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dr Evil says:

just sell the frakin house....

read Malcolm Gladwells book ‘Outliers’
and it describes this pretty well. There is an information gap that is rapidly closing because real estate agents (and the loftier realtors) can no longer hide the secret handshakes and ceromonies from the general public. Truth is, I have bought 11 houses with no agent on my side – who needs ’em? I do, however, have a real estate lawyer review everything because I don’t know that secret handshake yet.

What ever happened to the Justice Dept suit against the Nat’l Association of Realtors? C.F.A.?s executive director, Stephen Brobeck said : ?Because the industry functions as a cartel, it is able to overcharge consumers tens of billions of dollars a year. Consumers are increasingly wondering why they are often charged more to sell a home than to purchase a new car.? this 5 or 6 years ago…

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Re: just sell the frakin house....

Seriously? It costs more to sell a home than to purchase a new car because there is a ton of equity to be skimmed by those leeches. Points and fees abound because commissions need to be paid to several hands. No there is no reason for the agent or the lawyer (in most cases), but people are just used to doing business that way.

As the flow of information increases there will be less leeching…. and MILLIONS of jobs will be lost and BILLIONS will disappear from the economy. Gawd I love that song.

Brendy says:

Re: just sell the frakin house....

Yea, I bought a house and saw the insane amounts of commission that the seller had to pay, so I was like screw that I am not going to pay that when the time comes to sell my house. I had my fiance simply take 5 or 6 classes (maybe even less) online with extremely minimal effort to get her real estate license so we don’t have to pay 6% commission when selling our house. It’s pretty easy to get if you already have a business degree, as the credit from classes from a business degree can count as a bunch of the classes for a RE license. Pretty cool idea, I thought. Who cares if she never uses it otherwise? If we sell our house one time, we could have a savings of $60,000. Why doesn’t everyone do this?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: just sell the frakin house....

Just to make sure I’m clear…

You were so adamant about not paying those fee that you “had your fiance take some classes and get her RE license”? Way to man up there, buddy….

I’m thinking the fees might be the least of your worries when she wakes up to what kind of douche she’s with and takes the whole thing…

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: just sell the frakin house....

I think if you read on that he says that an existing business degree contributes to the RE licence, and he implies that she already has that business degree, in which csae it makes much more sense for her to do it than him to learn from scratch.

Of course, he did put it badly, but it sounds like they both saved a lot of money for minimal effort, so it makes sense.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“real estate and crime” returns approx 629 million results.”
You call us names and cite the search term “real estate and crime” Really? Cuz none of those 629 million is ads, crimes committed by realtors, etc. 10/10 in the FAIL dept.

Pathetic indeed.

About 298,000,000 results (0.25 seconds) FAIL


And so on and so on. You sir/ma’am Have failed miserably.

Have a great day.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This obviously is a huge problem.
Obviously. /s
Violence is quite a problem in the field. The real estate and rental and leasing occupation has seen an average of 75 deaths a year from 2003 to 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

.21 per day. You have a better chance of being hit by a car.

Yes we must put a stop to this HUGE HUGE problem.

Pangolin (profile) says:

Real Estate RIPE for disruption

I’m (trying) to sell a home. What do realtors in my area do? Put it on the MLS. Then they wait. They wait for someone to have an interest. They make big noises about it getting on the aggregate sites (, trulia, zillow) and that being a selling point. I’ve been through several companies – NOTHING differentiates one company from another. It’s a scam. And I get to pay 6% of my selling price to someone who basically just inputs some data and WAITS.

There are ways to get into the MLS cheaper but realtors don’t show these “low commission” homes.

So we sit here and basically pay a “tax” to get into the MLS so the home can sell. I’d love to be part of something BIGGER than the MLS that lets homes sell without paying this “tax”. It is WAY out of line and this industry is RIPE for technological disruption. It can’t happen fast enough for me.

william (profile) says:

Re: Real Estate RIPE for disruption

If that’s the kind of realtors you got. You really need to research first on looking for a good realtor. Maybe you have friends who has successfully dealt with realtors and are happy to recommend someone?

It seems like your ‘tool’ is not performing well. In that case, you need to choose better tool, not complaining the existence of the tool makes no sense.

In my area they housing market is trending a slow decline, but my realtor still manages to pull on average 1 to 2 sets of people to look at my unit every week, over the winter, when people don’t traditionally buy/sell homes. Not only that, I managed to sell my property higher than similar properties in the area.

Yes, you can save the commission on the sale by doing it yourself. But you’ll have to deal with advertising, negotiation, government regulation, contract law…etc all by yourself. I for one is not willing to spend too much time dealing with those. I still have to work everyday to make a living first.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Real Estate RIPE for disruption

He can even get it on MLS himself now too, at least in B.C.

And yes, like everything else to do with Real Estate the commission is negotiable. The agent I have working on selling my place was recommended and after working with him for a bit I can see why.

Like anything else, there are good and bad agents.

I don’t see what the Toronto Real Estate Board complaining about when they provide the same information to prospective buyers that they now say is dangerous. Also, by their logic, having a For Sale sign on your house or condo is an invitation to a break in or worse. To follow through on that logic all the For Sale signs should come down pronto.

If you follow the link to the Globe and Mail story on this you’ll find the Competition Board’s answer to the attacks, all of which makes perfect sense to anyone but the Toronto Real Estate Board who’ve commissioned a poll on the issue, no doubt designed to get the answers they want to get and have gone on the offensive.

Attacks on realtors are usually high profile in the news media and it’s been one heck of a long time since I’ve heard of one.

Phred Phnerd (profile) says:

Re: Real Estate RIPE for disruption

No one is forcing you to use a Realtor, Broker or real estate agent.
What’ s preventing you from sticking a sign in the yard, putting an ad on craigslist, open it up on Sunday’s so you can have strangers come through and do all the negotiations and paper work yourself?

Ahh, right your an asshole and hard do deal with..

Btw, what do you do for a living?

Pangolin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Real Estate RIPE for disruption

It’s a little more complicated than that. The truth is the commission is your price to get FAIRLY CONSIDERED on the MLS.

Standard commission where I am is 6%. Real estate agents don’t highly consider the homes for sale at lower percentages.

While I can get on the MLS with a 1-2 percent commission the home won’t be seriously considered.

This is CHANGING now that we have the aggregators showing the homes and people can find the homes faster than they can find a realtor.

The whole argument that the realtor is necessary for the inspections, offers, negotiation is specious.

I just bought a second home. I knew the seller and just drew up a simple for sale contract and took it to my bank and then chose a title company and they handled all the documents etc. It was inexpensive for the seller (Though there is still the title insurance scam) and it worked well.

I’d love to sell my other home myself. But the REALITY of the situation is that a realtor is presently a bonus convenience. I don’t have to like it and I can certainly hope for a change in how things operate.

Phred Phnerd (profile) says:

Re: Real Estate RIPE for disruption

No one is forcing you to use a Realtor, Broker or real estate agent.
What’ s preventing you from sticking a sign in the yard, putting an ad on craigslist, open it up on Sunday’s so you can have strangers come through and do all the negotiations and paper work yourself?

Ahh, right your an asshole and hard do deal with..

Btw, what do you do for a living?

william (profile) says:

If you really want to find out who’s selling their house, all you have to do is visit and realtor and say that you want to buy a house. Not only you can get to know if it’s empty or not, you can also get a tour of the house to research on security alarms and floor plan.

I have recently just sold my place with help from a Canadian realtor and the primarily reason I believe in using a realtor is… SERVICE!

– I can continue to work and live my day to day life while they work on selling the house
– Experienced realtor already have a network of contractors, inspectors lawyers/notary to perform various function related to the sale of property. Not only that, because it’s long term relationship, you don’t have to worry contractors scamming you
– Experienced realtors are good SALES PERSON. Selling is a skill you learn, practice and master. Not every home owner is a good enough sales person to sale their own place for a good reasonable price.
– Realtors have their own social network that can bring people in even when times are tough. When you are buying electronics, the first thing you check is not craigslist where you can save some money buying from others directly. A lot of people would go to Best Buy or Futureshop to check it out first (and potentially buying it there). Same thing with buying a house, you would check with a realtor first.
– realtor are knowledgeable about property buying and selling. That’s their profession. Buying/selling property is not like you walk into an Apple Store and pick up a MacBook. It involves land claims, estimates, taxes, mortgages, property laws…etc. You can’t just wake up one morning and decides now you are an expert in properties buying/selling and start selling your house. And why waste your time learning all that tidbits which a normal person will probably use two or three times in their life time?
– good realtors also knowledgeable about locations and market trends etc which you can’t just find buy reading a bunch of listings

Real estate agents provides important services, not information. Their move trying to limit the information flow of property sale is strategically idiotic. Property information is not the “choke point” of control they think it is. Increase in information flow will only drive more people to use realtors. It’s like free advertising! Even if consumers received knowledge about properties, most of them can’t complete the rest of the step in buying/selling anyways.

Putting listings online will not only reduce the step 1, interest buyer to a property, for realtors, they will also drive more people to come to a realtor for step 2, step 3…etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Your whole premise is based on getting hooked up with a high-performing realtor. If realtors follow the same statistical breakdown as nearly all labor markets, you are probably talking about the top 15% of realtors. After that first 15%, the dropoff in labor skill/commitment is pretty dramatic.

So isn’t the real question, “is selling it yourself better than the real estate agent you are likely to get 85% of the time?”

Perhaps you can guarantee you get an excellent rep, but most people cannot and have no frame of reference to judge their skill and maybe not even their dedication.

william (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Right, and getting a high-performing realtor is part of your skill/luck.

There are 10 sales person in your local Best Buy and they all sell TVs. According to standard bell curve, only 15% of them actually are knowledgeable about TVs and not actively scamming you. Part of your skill/luck is to pick that top 15%. If you didn’t pick the right one, is it BestBuy’s fault, sales person’s fault, society’s fault, or is it just your problem?

If you get scammed, you only have yourself to blame (usually) and people are usually not that sympathetic.

Anyways, if you didn’t get the main point of my opinion. It is that free flow of the property market information does not hinder a realtors’ business. It actually enhance it because it’s DIFFERENT TYPE OF PRODUCT.

Reading stock market price and market information on newspaper is a different product than going to your financial adviser to ask for advise on investment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Experienced realtor already have a network of contractors, inspectors lawyers/notary to perform various function related to the sale of property. Not only that, because it’s long term relationship, you don’t have to worry contractors scamming you.

Sorry, that’s a non-sequitur if ever I saw one.

First point – just because the realtor has a relationship with someone doesn’t mean that it transfers to you. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – the inspector/contractor/etc. will work to keep the realtor happy because then they get more referrals.

When my wife and I bought our house, we used the inspector and lawyer recommended by the realtor. The inspector basically acted as a second salesperson for the agent.

The inspector told us (correctly) that the house only had 80-amp service, but that modern code needed 110 amp. He also said it would be grandfathered and the city wouldn’t require us to upgrade it unless we made changes to the wiring, and that even though the wiring was aluminum, it was in good shape, so everything would be fine as long as we didn’t add any new electrical.

What he (and the realtor) neglected to mention is that there is *no* insurance company that would insure a house with 80-amp service. And so we needed to upgrade the service. Which we couldn’t do because while the wiring was in good shape, it was aluminum, and so needed to be replaced before we could upgrade the service.

Then there was the roof – the inspector told us (correctly) that the roof was approximately 20 years old and the life of the shingles was 25 to 30 years, and so would need to be replaced in a few years.

Except he neglected to mention that there is (again) *no* insurance company that would insure a house with a 20-year old roof.

And then the furnace, which had a cracked heat exchanger. He measured for leaks and said while it would last a year, he recommended the heat exchanger be replaced. Except that the insurance company insisted that since the furnace was only 80% efficient, and code required 90%, we needed to get a new one of those too.

Now, you might say “oh, it was the insurance company’s fault” – except that the insurance company didn’t know these problems when we bought the house (because we didn’t *have* an insurance company before we bought it, and wouldn’t send someone out to inspect until after we’d purchased), and the realtor’s inspector did, because it was his job to know. And yet, since everything he told us was technically correct, we had no recourse. We were stuck with a house that needed extensive repairs that needed to be done within 30 days or we would be in violation of the terms of our mortgage.

All told, we had to spend around $20,000 in a month to bring the house up to code – and that’s $20,0000 more than we had because we’d just purchased a house. Because the realtor’s recommended inspector had more loyalty to the realtor than to us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Independent home inspections are a fraud. My inspector wanted to charge an extra $400 to dump 400 gallons of water into the septic tank to test it (since the house was unoccupied for a few months). A quick search online suggested letting a faucet on a few hours a few days before the inspection.
It actually sounds like your inspector gave you more information than what I was given. I tried for months afterward to get a copy of the inspection report that I never received. All I wanted to know was how the water tested out.

william (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Honestly, I don’t know how you got screwed over. I can only talk from my experience that my realtor did a pretty good job.

Like the above AC said, my premise is to get a good realtor.

I said earlier, realtor is like a tool. If you can’t get a good tool or that your tool is not performing up to the standard doesn’t make it’s existence illogical/unnecessary/scam. It just means that you are not very good at picking your tools or you have bad luck and picked the lemon.

MPAA/RIAA’s lawyer pisses me off greatly and they scam people. That doesn’t mean all lawyers are con-artists or unnecessary or bad people.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would say that to a certain extent, the realtors are right here.

When I have sold houses in the past, I only accept appointments provided by the agent. They only accept them when they know they are dealing with another agent. I don’t have to deal with door knockers or random people showing up at the door.

Someone shows up at the door knocking without an appointment, I just give them the agent’s number through the door and stop worrying.

I pay an agent for a reason – and yes, security is one of those things.

Anonymous Coward says:

Traditional Real estate companies are on the way out

Sold 5 house in Canada in the past 10 year…. on with out a real estate agent but used a on-line home sales site.
Tons of photo, no issues.
Average cost to sell the home (including legeal fees) ~$550. Even had many on-line advertised open houses.
Compared to giving some Real Estate company 5.5-7% of the value of the home for a maxiumum of 8 hours of work.

Real estate companies need to move a services for a fee model rather than just a percentage. Want a on-line add – that will be $200, want a print ad – that will be $300, want an open house – that will be $500. Screen the potential buys – that will be $100 a buyer. Want help with the contract and closing negotiations – that will $1000. Etc. In some cases you might make more than the 7% and in others far less.

David Muir (profile) says:

Realtor Here

I always get a little depressed at how much hatred there is for real estate agents whenever items like this hit the news. I think that’s mostly because Internet denizens are on the leading edge of trends. They see that open access to information is the norm now and will be the future of EVERYTHING. They are also highly intelligent and motivated people who can take all the information they get and do their own real estate transactions.

My business model is based around personal service and education (teaching people the ins and outs of a real estate transaction). Maybe that means I am augmenting what they have learned online. Maybe that means I teach them so much that they will handle their next transaction on their own. I know some agents get angry when they lose a client like this. I think it is fantastic. If it happens, I have done my job well. I even have one client who went on to become a real estate agent himself because I gave him such insight into the business. Mostly though, I create happy clients who generate eager referrals for me. That’s the way I build my business.

aldestrawk says:

Re: Realtor Here

The problem with using real estate agents is that the commission is a fixed percentage of the sale price of the house. A 6% total commission, split between the listing agent and selling agent, may have been reasonable at one time, but in many areas of the country housing prices have increased dramatically in the last few decades. A typical house in my area costs, roughly, a 1/2 million dollars. These are not homes for the wealthy, but this still makes the commission $30,000. I, and a lot of folk, don’t see the value of the real estate agents as being worth $30,000. Nowadays, the value of a real estate agent has been reduced because the vast majority of listings are available on-line. This is particularly true with respect to the buyer. I can easily look through the listings and find a house on my own. All I need is a knowledgeable person, that represents my interests, to hold my hand during the purchasing process. I used a lawyer familiar with real estate contracts and other issues. I paid him a flat fee which was much, much less than 3% of the purchase price. Ah, but you say it is the seller that pays the commission. In my case, the lawyer negotiated a clause limiting the commission to 3%, which went entirely to the listing agent. My offer took this into account as it was 3% less than it would have been otherwise.
That purchase happened some 11 years ago. This new model is very much a threat to real estate agents livelihoods. Earlier, I had made an offer on a house that had been on the market a while. After a couple of days of silence, I had to call the listing agent to find out what was happening. He said it had been sold to someone else. Their had not been any mention of multiple offers. The agent had not come back to me for a counter-offer. Since, neither the listing agent nor the seller would have earned less money in a deal with me, I have to assume the listing agent just shut me out because I was a threat to their business model and they did not want to encourage such an arrangement. Such behavior was not in the interests of the seller which they were supposedly representing.

Melanie says:

According to a study by the National Institute of Justice, parking facilities are more prone to violent and property crime than all other real estate except residential areas. The study also mentioned a 1992 statistic of parking lots being the third most frequent place in which violent crimes occur, averaging about 1,400 violent crimes per day. MySecuritySign knows that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, safety and security signs are needed now more than ever.

homes for sale huntington beach

Russell Sharp (profile) says:

Adding Value every step of the way

I believe in adding value at every step of the way. That way none of my clients ever question me on my commission or earnings. I even go as far as to homestage my clients houses and apartments before I sell them myself. This investing in their listings blows them away and vastly increases the chances of selling as well as getting paid for the hard work that we Realtors do.

James Matthews (user link) says:

Canadian online property sales market not as advanced as UK

I was very surprised, reading this article, to learn that the Canadian online property sales market does not appear to be as advanced as the UK.

It is estimated that over 80% of potential buyers in the UK now start their search for a new property online!

In addition to the standard estate agents websites this massive shift towards online search has spawned dedicated property sale portals such as and many others.

There are also dedicated online estate agents that provide all of the services normally provided by a bricks and mortar estate agent, but at a fraction of the cost.

It would seem that Canadian estate agents are trying to delay the inevitable and protect there current market share rather than embrace new opportunities offered by online sales.

Wayde says:

just sell the frakin house....

This whole article and post is filled with ill-informed and outrageous claims (lies) like this one. Yeah, I used a discount broker to sell my house and it cost less than $500 to do so. That decision had partly to do on where I live and the market. Anyways, comments like this just go to show how people are willing to lie on the internet. You didn’t have your fianc? take 5 or 6 classes because it costs more than you are making it out to be. Also, real estate law also forces you to join a brokerage if you are going to sell homes. This means you will have to pay a brokerage office fees on top of for licence fees and other costs (signs, lockboxes etc). Oh, and did you think of the cut that the brokerage takes? Do you really think realtors get 100% of those commissions? And you don’t have to pay 6% for a realtor to begin with. I’m sure you had your fianc? learn all about condo documents and farm sales (which includes environmental law, pesticide ratios, feeding ratios, well and septic system maintenance) so you could save on your commission. What a joke. You are such a liar. I’m sure your fianc? will do a great job selling your $1,000,000 (according to your calculations) home at around the same rate as a real estate professional. I only take this amount of umbrage with pathetic posts like this because I am family friends with a young lady that was killed in Victoria around 7-8 years ago.

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