Real Estate Litigation Articles

Why forcing home sellers to publicly list their properties is a bad idea

By Bob Aaron
Toronto Star contributing columnist.

Many sellers choose exclusive listings because they don’t want their homes’ details and sale prices known, writes Bob Aaron.

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has announced a change in its rules that will work against the best interests of home sellers across the country.

Effective January 1, 2023, all realtors who post an exclusive listing for a client will be required to place the listing on the Multiple Listing Service of their local board within three days of its initial publication.

CREA has 155,000 members working through 75 local boards and associations across Canada. Any realtor who belongs to a local real estate board must abide by CREA’s rules.

However, realtors have an obligation to act in the best interests of their clients and this new rule places them in a serious conflict of interest.

Many sellers choose exclusive listings specifically because they want to avoid MLS. They may want to feel out the market without creating a public record of the listing and eventual sale price.

They may also want to rely exclusively on the contacts and expertise of their chosen realtor who could have buyers already lined up. By only paying one agent, there is a possibility of negotiating a commission lower than the standard five per cent.

There are, of course, advantages to the MLS system, but they are not for every seller. An MLS listing may increase the number of offers received and improve the chances of receiving the most competitive offers for the home.

But some sellers believe that their best interests are served by trusting their listing to only one realtor, and not being on the MLS system.

To me it seems patronizing and self-serving for the industry association to force sellers to place their exclusive listings on the MLS after three days.

I find it hard to believe CREA’s position that, in all instances, exclusive listings diminish the efficiency, value and benefits that MLS provides. That’s just not the case.

CREA says, incorrectly in my view, that failure to place a listing on MLS not only undermines the best interest of clients, but also the value of the MLS which is based in large measure on the number of properties listed on the systems.

Withholding listings, CREA says, results in a smaller number of listings available for co-operative selling which diminishes the value of the MLS system for both realtors and their clients.

So maybe the real reason for the policy change is CREA’s self-interest in having commissions shared among more agents.

A so-called exemption to the new rules applies if the seller confirms in writing that the listing agent has informed the seller of the benefits of the MLS system and the seller has specifically instructed the listing agent not to engage in any marketing of the property to the public.

But agents have no obligation to present this alternative to their clients.

My recommendation is that sellers who do not want their homes on the MLS system should instruct their agents in writing not to adhere to the new CREA policy and to ignore the restriction on public marketing.

CREA needs to act in the public interest and not to pursue its own agenda. I see a law suit on the horizon.

Bob Aaron is a Toronto real estate lawyer. He is Certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a Specialist in Real Estate Law.

He can be reached by email at, phone 416-364-9366. Visit his website