What an end to blind bidding for real estate could look like


Majority supported elimination of blind bidding for property in a recent poll commissioned by CBC News

Would an end to blind bidding help Canadian home buyers?

8 days ago
With concerns about affordability and transparency plaguing Canada’s housing market, some say an end to blind bidding is the solution. But the real estate industry says a ban isn’t the way to go. 8:18

Critics of the blind bidding process for real estate are pushing for what they say are viable alternatives that could create a better system for both sellers and buyers. 

In provinces across Canada, blind-bidding is the default practice when a home attracts multiple offers. In this scenario, buyers compete to offer the highest purchase price on a home without knowing the dollar amount of the other bids.

“I think there are serious issues with the way we are conducting things right now,” said Murtaza Haider, a professor of data science and real estate management at Ryerson University.   

Haider says an end to blind bidding could have some impact on volatility in housing prices, but more importantly, “greater efficiency and transparency would bring more trust to the industry, and that should be a priority for the real estate sector.”

This past election, the federal Liberals made their stance on the issue clear when they said they’d ban blind bidding as part of their housing platform.

In a new poll commissioned by the CBC, the majority of respondents supported an end to blind bidding. The survey of 1,511 Canadians was conducted between Sept. 17 and 19 using Leger’s online panel, and found that 52 per cent supported the elimination of blind bidding, 23 per cent wanted things to stay the same, and 25 per cent said they didn’t know.

Poll commissioned by CBC News and conducted Sept. 17 to 19 through Leger’s online panel of 1,511 respondents, with a margin of error of ±2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20. (CBC News)

For Jeanhie Park, the experience of offering $230,000 more on a property than she needed to underlines the need for change. 

“It would eliminate a lot of the deceit and misinformation that people receive when putting in an offer,” she said.

Park and her family went looking for a cottage in central Ontario this spring. Up against steep competition, they lost four bidding wars in a matter of weeks, so they were prepared when their real estate agent told them they were competing on the next property too. 

“We were advised to bid a couple of hundred thousand over list, and we just went a little bit over just because we wanted to get that property … under the assumption that there were two other registered offers.”

Park later learned, through the listing agent, that there were actually no other offers.

“We felt duped and manipulated,” Park said. “The fact that there were zero registered offers, that we were misled with false information in order for us to put in our top price.”

Jeanhie Park said that in a recent blind bidding deal, she believed she was competing against other bids when in reality she was the only bidder for a property. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

Park submitted a complaint in May to the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO), an oversight body responsible for protecting the public interest and enforcing the rules that real estate agents must follow. 

RECO confirmed Park’s complaint, but said it can’t comment on its progress or specifics. It added that, “Misrepresenting the number of offers willfully is a breach of our legislation and offenders can expect to be disciplined.”

The real estate agent Park filed the complaint about also declined to comment while the investigation is open, aside from saying they were “cooperating fully with the provincial regulator.”

Even if the regulator finds wrongdoing on the part of the agent, Park questions how much difference it will make.

“They’re not going to reduce the price that we paid, and they’re certainly not going to pay for my mortgage.”

Real estate agents found guilty by RECO of breaching the realtor code of ethics can face discipline ranging from educational courses to fines up to $50,000.

“What does that do? It’s just nothing but a slap on the wrist,” Park said. “You know, we’re having to pay more money. We’re having to get a larger mortgage amortized over 30 years, well beyond our retirement target date, and it’s just completely unfair.”

From January 2020 to Aug 31, 2021, RECO says it received 172 inquiries related to the number of offers on a listing and says six of those have led to complaint investigations. 

Choice vs. transparency

Haider says cases like Park’s highlight issues with how real estate is sold. 

“The goal should be to get the highest price possible, but the highest fair price possible — not in a way that it discriminates by withholding information,” he said.

On the other hand, the real estate industry objects to a proposed ban on blind bidding, arguing that homeowners should get to decide how they want to sell their homes. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association says, “Canadians have the right to choose how they want to transact what is likely the largest purchase of their lives.” 

It’s an argument echoed by David Oikle, president of the Ontario Real Estate Association. “Auctions are available now, so the consumer gets to decide if they want to sell with or without representation. For sale by owners have been around forever and they’ll continue to be around. So I think that a seller gets to decide how they do it.”

David Oikle is president of the Real Estate Association of Ontario (OREA). The association represents more than 80,000 realtors in the province. (Raphael Tremblay/CBC)

Currently, selling via open bidding is synonymous with selling without representation from a real estate agent, because while provincial rules vary, regulations such as the Real Estate Brokers Act in Ontario make it illegal for realtors to disclose the dollar amount of competing bids. That means transparent bidding can only happen outside the current real estate sales framework dominated by agents.

Presently, there are more than 135,000 registered real estate agents across Canada who can sell via blind bidding, but only a few auction houses selling real estate.

Oikle says a change to open bidding will also not address Canada’s affordability crisis, and points to Australia as an example. In that country’s hottest markets, the vast majority of real estate is sold in auctions that are often held outside the property.  

“Auction fever creates a three-ring circus on front lawns,” Oikle said, adding that “auctions can drive prices higher and dangerously push buyers to make rushed decisions.”

This year prices in major Australian cities were up 20 per cent. Similar or larger increases were seen in Canada this past year too, with many cities seeing an increase between 20 and 30 per cent, including 27.9 per cent in Fredericton, 25.6 per cent in Hamilton, 35 per cent in Montreal, and 23.7 per cent in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.

“I think that that’s going off of a very narrow-sighted view of what auctions are and how they operate,” retorted real estate agent Daniel Steinfeld. 

Despite the restrictions, Steinfeld says he wanted the buyers and sellers he represents to have more choice, so in 2017 he and his partner Katie Steinfeld launched a company designed to offer transparent bidding.

“We wanted to introduce the fact that there is more than one way to sell a home.”

Daniel Steinfeld co-founded On the Block Auctions, which offers transparent bidding via an online auction platform. (Daniel Steinfeld)

However, complaints from industry stakeholders led RECO to tell Steinfeld that as an agent, he had to follow the industry rules around the disclosure of bids. So he became a licensed auctioneer and in 2019 he opened On The Block Auctions, alongside his brokerage with the same name. 

“The process works exactly the same as what people expect with the traditional listing,” Steinfeld said. “The property is staged, we take professional photos and videos, prepare all the marketing materials … and then the property is listed on MLS. The only big difference is that the property is now up for open bidding.”

The bidding process Steinfeld uses happens via an online platform where registered buyers can make their own offers and see the number and dollar amounts of competing bids. Bidders can increase the amount they want to offer as many times as they like, with the auction only ending once all bidding has stopped. 

“When you do away with the blind bidding process, in certain situations, you’re confident that the number that you’re putting forward is the price you needed to pay to win the home,” Steinfeld said.

A for sale sign put up by On The Block Auctions, a real estate company that offers a transparent bidding process through online auctions. (Dean Gariepy/CBC)

Earlier this year, Bev Holt sold her home in Burlington, Ont., using On The Block’s auction process. Holt said the transparent model appealed to her.

On auction day, Holt and her family gathered around the computer and watched the bids come in. 

“It was very exciting,” she said, “and the house went for more than we expected it would. Five minutes before the end of the auction a new bidder jumped in, and you can’t have that in the traditional process.” 

Philip Kocev, a broker and managing partner at iPro Realty in Toronto, agrees that open bidding doesn’t have to be complicated and suggests a way for traditional real estate agents to offer it.

“Sellers, through their listing agent, should be allowed to disclose the best offer on the table to all competing offers, with all participants given an opportunity to resubmit their offer or walk away.”

He adds that many real estate agents he’s spoken to support transparent bidding.

He believes the time for a hard look at this issue is now, because in Ontario the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services is currently reviewing the legislation that governs real estate brokerages, brokers and salespersons in the province. 

“If we don’t get involved now and help shape the offer process, [the] government could impose changes upon [us] that may not be in the best interest of our industry or consumers.”


No quick fix

While Steinfeld says a system like his shows transparency is possible, he acknowledges it’s unlikely to fix the issue of affordability. 

Haider agrees it’s no silver bullet, since “on a per-capita basis, we are building half as many homes now as we were building in the early ’70s.”

Murtaza Haider is a professor of Data Science and Real Estate Management at Ryerson University. He said blind bidding is stacked in favour of sellers at the cost of buyers. (Doug Husby/CBC)

Haider says the only way to fix the affordability crisis is with an increase in supply, but adds that an end to blind bidding could help take some of the heat out of local markets.

“The house will always go to the person with the highest reserve price, that’s not the issue,” he said. “The question is, should that person be $300,000 or $500,000 more than the second-highest? What happens then is that it has raised that threshold for every other subsequent sale. So all those homes that will be listed the following day, they would escalate the price.”

Haider adds that while the Liberal government has expressed its desire to end blind bidding through a federal ban, he believes it would make the most sense for change to come from provincial governments, since they create legislation around real estate and govern the rules the industry must follow.

“I think the best thing is to go back to the provincial regulators and say, is your current practice guaranteeing fairness, protecting the rights of sellers and buyers alike?

“If that’s the case, sure, write it off saying no need to do anything more. But if it’s not, then let’s build transparency and trust because that’s what the industry relies on.”

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Is investing in crowdfunded real estate a wise choice?

Mark Ting, CBC’s finance columnist, explains why he’s helping his kids buy in

This column is an opinion by Mark Ting, a partner with Foundation Wealth who helps clients reach their financial goals. He can be heard every Thursday at 4:50 p.m. on CBC radio as On the Coast’s guide to personal finance. This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read our FAQ.

The high cost of real estate is often cited as the main barrier to entry into Vancouver’s housing market. As a result, some determined Canadians have turned to crowdfunding.  

In North America, there are several real estate crowdfunding companies that divide investable properties into fractional shares. I recently bought a fractional share of a rental development in Mission, B.C. This project’s crowdfund goal was $500,000 consisting of 500,000 shares at a dollar each.   

In total, about 1,000 people invested an average of nearly $500 to raise the half million. It is a longer-term holding with the developer building 105 units which include 11 affordable rental units over the next two years, then renting them out for three years before selling the units and dividing the profits among the investors.  

The reason I got involved in the Mission rental property crowdfund was two-fold. First, I agree with the crowdfund procurement team’s assessment about Mission — it has great capital appreciation and rental income potential — and second, I’m using this investment as a learning experience for my children.  

A learning experience 

For every ‘A’ my kids earn at school on their report cards, I give them $100. This year they decided to invest their earnings in real estate via crowdfunding. We chose the Mission project as it is local, which means we can visit the development, monitor its progress and experience, albeit in a small way, the sense of pride that often accompanies home ownership.

On behalf of my children, I invested $500 in the crowdfund which projects an annual return of 14 per cent. In dollar terms, if achieved, our investment would double in about five years. Yielding $500 in five years isn’t going to dramatically change my life, however, for my kids it’s likely to be much more impactful. My hope is that they continue to invest the money they earn for good grades into more projects, essentially building a small pipeline of investments with different risk profiles that pay out at different times. My goal for them is to form good financial habits which, if accomplished, is worth several times more than the potential $500 profit created by this investment.

When doing due diligence on crowdfunding, pay attention to the fees. Many offerings, in my opinion, overcharge or take an excessive cut of the profits. Before I invested, I compared the fee structures of various crowdfunding companies and ultimately went with a company that didn’t charge fees but instead were compensated via a subscription model. 

To participate in the Mission development, I had to first pay $25 for an annual subscription. Something to consider if you are only planning on making a small investment. For example, it doesn’t make financial sense to pay a $25 annual subscription fee if you only plan to invest $100 into a project. Aim to invest at least a couple hundred dollars —ideally a couple thousand dollars, into various projects throughout the year. 

Other factors to consider:

  • The crowdfunding company’s management team experience and track record.

  • The minimum investment amount which can be range from $1 to more than $250,000. 

  • The expected returns of the investment versus the risk of the project.

  • The time horizon of the project which usually ranges from two to five years and more.

Overall, I feel that real estate crowdfunding can be a viable tool for those who want to invest in real estate but are restricted due to a lack of money or credit. Small investments in multiple projects add up over time. That makes it appealing for young people who want to get in the habit of investing — which now can be done in real estate for as little as the cost of a daily cup of coffee.


B.C. to extend rent freeze to end of 2021, increase protections against ‘renovictions’

NDP government says it’s meeting recommendations from a 2018 task force on rental issues

The British Columbia government says it will introduce legislative changes to extend a rent freeze through to the end of this year to stop illegal “renovictions” and improve the dispute resolution process for tenants and landlords.

The province has already introduced and extended a rent freeze during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it says in a news release Monday that new legislative changes will keep it in place through Dec. 31.

It says tenants can disregard any notice of a rent increase they’ve received that would have taken effect before Jan. 1, 2022, and starting next year rent hikes will be capped at the rate of inflation.

The release says before the NDP government took power in 2017, the maximum allowable rent increase was as high as 4.3 per cent, well above inflation.


“We know there’s more to do, but with these new changes, we’re continuing to make progress,” said Spencer Chandra Herbert, MLA for Vancouver West End.

The province also says the legislative changes mean tenants will no longer face so-called renovictions, or eviction notices for “phoney” renovations aimed at driving out long-term tenants and jacking up the rent.

Landlords will be required to apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch before they can end a tenancy agreement for renovations, and they will also not be able to evict tenants for renovations that are not substantial or do not require the unit to be vacant.

‘Not surprised’

Andrew Sakamoto, executive director of the Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, said as part of the release that it is common for landlords to illegally renovict tenants without the necessary permits required by law or for minor cosmetic improvements.

“Rather than forcing tenants to dispute these types of meritless eviction notices, we are pleased that landlords will now have to go through an application process before issuing such notices in the first place,” he said.

David Hutniak, CEO of Landlord B.C., which supports landlords in the province, says the extended period of frozen rents was expected.

“We’re not surprised,” he said about Monday’s announcement.

He said that by the end of 2021, it will be close to two years since landlords have been able to raise rents to help cover property taxes, insurance, maintenance costs and increased costs due to the pandemic

“Which is very challenging … COVID-related expenses are going through the roof,” he said.

He says his members are looking forward to increasing rents in line with inflation in 2022.

The bill with the proposed changes comes on the first day that the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia resumed its 42nd parliamentary session.

The bill stems from 23 recommendations made by a B.C.’s rental housing task force in 2018, which focus on protecting tenants from situations where they are forced to move out by landlords who say they plan to renovate the property.

Monday’s bill includes expanding administrative penalties that can be levied as part of dispute resolution proceedings and grounds for the review of arbitrator decisions.

The bill also clarifies language in the Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act to address conflicts between park rules and tenancy agreements.