for sale by owner

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Canada’s Competition Tribunal has sided with the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) over what information DIY home sellers can post on realtor.ca.

On April 30th, the tribunal released a ruling stating that CREA’s current regulations disallowing private home owners from posting seller contact info to the industry site were fair.

Realtor.ca, which is owned and operated by CREA, is the most popular site for resale homebuyers in Canada with a peak usage of 6 million visitors every month.

Although the tribunal ruled in 2010 that private sellers were allowed to post listings on the site, CREA enacted several rules that some argued broke competition regulations.

Sellers who don’t go the typical route of hiring an agent to sell their home are required by CREA to pay a fee to a licensed brokerage to get the listing up on realtor.ca and also create what’s known as a “buffer” site. Instead of including their contact details directly on the listing, DIY sellers need to link to an outside site with the private seller’s info. Commissioner of Competition John Pecman took the issue to the tribunal.

Despite complaints that the requirements waste consumers’ time and add extra expenses to private sellers, the tribunal decided the regulations don’t contravene competition rules.

The reason? Tribunal chairman Donald J. Rennie noted that “member-funded services are not required to promote private sales, something antithetical to the CREA member-to-member business model… The Commissioner’s interpretation effectively places a private seller in the same proximity to a prospective purchaser as a member.”

In other words, paying members, such as realtors, get certain perks in the CREA business model that shouldn’t be extended to the private sellers who aren’t paying to be a part of the association.

The decision is one of a number of tangles between the Competition Bureau and real estate associations in Canada over public information. Currently, the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB), the largest regional association in the country, is locked in a battle over whether MLS details such as previous home listings, sale prices and comparable properties, can be accessed without the use of a real estate agent.

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