Realtors® Association of Edmonton a House Divided Over Policy Change

The Realtors® Association of Edmonton, or RAE, is usually so sedate and evenly tempered. But a recent policy change approved by the board has brought out the beast in the group. It sits a house divided, as several dozen members voice their disapproval over the way sales data for local properties is disclosed to the public. The new rules, set to go into effect this December, are believed by some a way to keep realtors and potential clients out of the loop.

Irate brokers noted the new system would prohibit buyers and sellers as well as appraisers and the agents themselves from getting data until a home sale deal is closed. That delays that information sometimes for months after an agreement to purchase has been signed.

At present information is available in real time on the Multiple Listing Service®, or MLS®, for properties that have already been sold without conditions. This allows sellers and their agents to price their homes appropriately and buyers to negotiate deals reasonably and submit bids that are fair. The new rules would only allow those directly involved with the pending deals to have access.

This is the first time a major metropolitan area in Canada has implemented such a plan. Greg Steele, with RAE notes that the policy is meant to take care of liability and address privacy concerns. He noted that realtors could be looking at lawsuits if a deal failed to close after the price point was revealed and that property was put back on the market and had trouble selling.

Critics aren’t buying that argument. Larry Westergaard, past president of RAE is one of the loudest voices in that field. In fact he has already set up a Facebook page called Realtors Protecting Sales Data to give voice to the dissent.  Westergaard noted that a seller does not have to offer his home at the same price when offered under a new contract. Each deal between parties, no matter the outcome, is an independent transaction between those parties.

Steele is dismissing much of the critic’s fears, noting they are overblown. He also added that the average time to close an unconditional sale was 34 days. In the meantime, considering that the average price of a sale was 97 percent of the asking price, realtors could just do a bit of math to calculate the sales price.

But the 50 plus professionals who have joined the Facebook page are not convinced, citing the volatility of the market among other factors. Earl Pottage, who has nearly 50 years experience in the real estate world and who has also put in 30 years on the arbitration board at RAE noted the lawsuit argument is baseless.

The new policy is considered a backward step for the real estate industry. Should there be another housing boom as was seen during 2006 and 2007; the policy could prove to be disastrous. Housing prices would change so rapidly that realtors would find themselves more or less guessing about sales prices, which could lead to under pricing a property for as much as $20,000. Not a great way to create consumer confidence. The group is planning on getting the policy reversed at an upcoming general meeting of the RAE this coming September 27th.

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