In thinking about the Realtor Cooperation Policy, I am struck by two things. The first is a lack of nuance. It feels like a blunt instrument designed primarily to increase the number of listings available to MLSs for public distribution.
The second is the mechanism by which CREA proposes to bring in this policy, which is by way of amendment to the Realtor Code. In much the same way governments are fond of naming legislation for the benefit of those that don’t read beyond the headlines, such as Ontario’s Trust in Real Estate Services Act or British Columbia’s Anti-speculation and Vacancy Tax, CREA has created an amendment named the Duty of Cooperation.
Who would oppose trust in real estate services or support speculation and vacancy? And which realtor would oppose cooperation?
Cooperation is noble, desirable, and the principle upon which we’ve built our very successful business. But is it reasonable to make cooperation an ethical act, a moral imperative? The necessary implication is that a lack of cooperation is unethical.
This goes too far. The reasons for not cooperating might, in fact, be unethical, but there are some cases where the reasons for not cooperating—in the traditional sense that we understand it to be—are ethical.
“I should be clear here; I am no apologist for exclusive listings. I believe, in most instances, that the selling public is better served by the wider market offered through our MLS systems.”
The act of cooperation is neither ethical nor unethical, but rather the reasons for it are what determines the morality of the action. The amendment to the Realtor Code bluntly makes the act of cooperation an ethical issue.
The policy (which becomes enshrined should the amendment to the Realtor Code pass) does not take into consideration those who wish to engage the services of a realtor but for whom—for reasons of privacy, notoriety, fear of reprisal or other valid reasons—there is no appetite for MLS, but at the same time may want to benefit from a realtor’s expertise in other areas of marketing and promotion.
I should be clear here; I am no apologist for exclusive listings. I believe, in most instances, that the selling public is better served by the wider market offered through our MLS systems.
However, I also believe that it is up to the consumer, to our client, to decide how we will provide services to them. In this context, if we want the realtor to be central to more transactions in the marketplace rather than less, then operating exclusively needs to be an available choice and not one that is so very limited by the proposed policy.
“I suggest a compromise solution that creates a level playing field for realtors in each market…”
What might be a more nuanced approach? One that finds common ground in the sound arguments proposed in these pages, both for and against in recent months.
I suggest a compromise solution that creates a level playing field for realtors in each market, addresses the coming soon issue, adds to the market data we collect and still offers the public the opportunity to not participate on the public side of the MLS.
We could create a new category of listings within our respective MLS systems that does not display publicly, does not feed into auto search type portals, yet still makes such listings available for the industry.
There are several types of listings that have no public side to them that realtors can still access through our systems—expired, inactive and cancelled listings, for example.
Adding one more shouldn’t be a technical challenge. We know all “coming soon” listings are exclusives, but not all exclusives are “coming soon.”
“We deserve innovative and progressive solutions to the issue we face, not blunt instruments.”
We can solve the problem of private club-type marketing for listings that are to the detriment of those left out while aggregating this type of listing for all our benefit. We capture what might be lost market data that can be incorporated into our overall statistics.
By not having these listings publicly available, those sellers who truly don’t want to be public are given that option. Realtors can access and selectively decide which of their buyers might be interested.
A separate set of rules of cooperation for this category could be developed around identified pain points, such as the ability to qualify potential buyers through their agents and removing the requirement to allow showings regardless of comfort level with the showing request.
A shallower dataset, less documentation and fewer collateral materials may also be considered. And for those sellers who absolutely don’t want anyone to know about their listing, the option of being an unpublished exclusive would remain, as the trigger for putting the exclusive listing into this new category could be similar to what is described in the current Realtor Cooperation Policy.
This is an unrefined idea, but I do believe within it are the seeds of compromise. I believe such an approach would expand the reach and value of our MLS systems. This is what we should be seeking to accomplish.
We deserve innovative and progressive solutions to the issue we face, not blunt instruments. We already have the real ethical duty of acting in our clients’ best interests; we don’t need a made-up duty of cooperation in order to serve our clients at the highest ethical level.
David Langlois has been an award-winning Realtor since 2003 and is currently the Managing Broker for Macdonald Real Estate in Victoria, BC. David has been involved in organized real estate for many years and was the President of the Victoria Real Estate Board in 2021. His goal has been to contribute to strategic initiatives in the province and has focused on government relations and real estate industry policy with a focus on increasing professionalism and keeping Realtors at the centre of the real estate transaction.