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Photo: CTV News Montreal

 

Quebec’s real estate brokerage regulatory body, the Organisme d’autoreglementation du courtage immobilier du Quebec (OACIQ), has opened an investigation after a Montreal newspaper revealed two brokers allegedly made bogus offers on houses in a bid to obtain artificially high bids for the properties.

 

TV star broker and partner fired by Re/Max D’Ici 

 

As a result of the article in La Presse, Re/Max D’Ici in Repentigny, Que. has fired the brokers Christine Girouard and Jonathan Dauphinais-Fortin. 

Source: Instagram, christine_avendu

Girouard is one of the stars of the hit TV show Numeros 1 on the Casa channel, a French-language version of HGTV. The show, which follows the exploits of several brokers, was the third most popular on the network in 2021 among the 25 to 54-year-old demographic.

 

Alleged scheme to boost property prices

 

According to documents uncovered by La Presse, Dauphinais-Fortin, who is part of Girouard’s real estate team, made at least two bogus offers on properties last year as part of an alleged strategy to increase bids on properties that Girouard had under contract. 

One of the homes was listed by Girouard in Repentigny, north of Montreal, for $399,700 in February 2022. 

A couple who had been outbid on several other properties made an initial offer of $410,000 on the property but were told within hours by their broker that another offer had been made. 

Not willing to lose out on the house and fearing that higher interest rates were coming, they decided to boost their offer to purchase by $40,000 to $450,000. They took possession of the property in June 2022.

What they didn’t know was that Dauphinais-Fortin’s former wife had allegedly made the second offer. It was for only $370,000, almost $30,000 less than the listing price and $40,000 less than the initial bid by the buyers.

OACIQ confirms inquiry and Re/Max Quebec condemns actions

An OACIQ spokesperson confirmed to Real Estate Magazine that an inquiry has been opened in the wake of the revelations made by the La Presse but said that it generally does not comment on specific cases to ensure that the disciplinary process is not involuntarily influenced.

Re/Max Quebec declined an interview request by Real Estate Magazine but sent a statement that salutes Re/Max D’Ici’s decision to end its contract with the two brokers.

“Our entire network is shocked by these actions,” the statement said.

“Such behaviour goes against our values and OACIQ rules and places a shadow on the rigorous work of the members of our industry.” It noted that the work of brokers must be based on a relationship of trust with clients.

The statement went on to say that Re/Max Quebec will cooperate fully with the OACIQ investigation.

 

Pattern of alleged fraud

 

La Presse also found that Girouard and Dauphinais-Fortin, who are now married, allegedly used the same strategy in May 2022 for another property in Repentigny.

During that month, a couple signed a contract with Girouard to sell their house for a listing price of $580,700, although they hoped the property would sell for $635,000.

Two weeks later, with no activity on the property, Girouard cancelled the contract and made another so that the house would appear as a new listing on Centris.ca, Quebec’s version of Realtor.ca. The listing price was dropped to $549,700, and soon after, the seller received two promises to purchase for $605,000 and $607,000.

However, unbeknownst to the seller, a third offer to purchase was allegedly made on the property for only $500,000 by Dauphinais-Fortin, with a long-time friend of the broker named as the potential buyer.

In this case, the strategy did not result in higher bids, and the property did not sell. The homeowner is now attempting to sell the house on his own using the FSBO brokerage Du Proprio.

 

Legal consequences: Fraud charges and potential prison sentence

 

Legal experts contacted by the newspaper said the alleged bogus offers constitute fraud and carry a potential maximum prison sentence of 14 years, according to the Criminal Code of Canada.

Buyers affected by the alleged bogus offers can make claims for damages due to fraud to OACIQ. The maximum compensation is $100,000.

La Presse also discovered that Girouard may have contravened several articles of Quebec’s Real Estate Brokerage Act by her statements on camera during episodes of the Numeros 1 TV show. In one episode, she described her approach as: “Okay, I bluff; it’s my job. That’s what I’m hired for.”

On May 26, the OACIQ recommended to its disciplinary committee that there is enough evidence to conclude the two brokers’ licenses should be temporarily suspended. The disciplinary committee will discuss the matter on May 31.

 

 

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