Are Realtors sabotaging MLS® with “grey market” listings?

We have experienced a relatively strong market over the last 18 months and listing scarcity has become an issue, as many areas have only a month or two of listing inventory. Listings in 2017 were down approximately 25% from the previous year (35% over 2 years) and with healthy sales, this made things difficult for buyers and their agents, especially those with an existing property to sell.

“Grey” market listings abound: (non MLS®)
In the face of dwindling listings, many Realtors (and their sellers) are getting creative about how they plan to market the listing to the best advantage of seller and Realtor. This includes the use of “exclusive” listings, “pocket” listings and future sale listings.  In most of these types of listings the listing agent does not publicize the listing widely/openly on the MLS® system.  (or at least initially) Instead these Realtors market via social media and a variety of 3rd party online sites.   Have you seen those “Coming Soon” or “Exclusive Listing”signs on front yards in your neighbourhood?  This is most likely an indication of a grey market listing.

How is this advantageous? (and to whom?)
Realtors do this for a number of reasons in our opinion:
-Realtors leverage the listing to potentially generate other buyer or seller prospects
-Realtors have a chance of “double ending” the listing, if they are able to find a buyer without having to pay another Realtor.
-The listing agent in many cases will have used these marketing concepts, combined with a lower listing commission to help close the listing in the first place.
-Realtors may be able to avoid the cost and time involved in some steps of the listing process ie professional photography, staging and also get to a sale sooner.
-are all the above consistent with the Realtor pledge of “first duty to client” or is the Realtor’s own marketing and prospecting activity subverting their principal duty to their seller client?
-some sellers may prefer not having a “wide open” MLS® listing where everybody and their brother are free to book random appointments to see their home.

So what’s the down side?
-these “ secret” listings become a bit of a holy grail and many Realtors really play this up:  Ie “ deal with me and I will get you the inside scoop on all the new listings, so you get to consider them BEFORE they hit MLS®.  Nobody, has access to all the “secret” listings, no matter how strong they may be in the neighbourhood.  The fairest and most democratic way is for all listings to make their way to MLS® where they can be considered by all buyers and their agents.
-all buyers do not get to consider the property and therefore demand is generated by only a small portion of the overall market.
-Buyers may be encouraged in to making a more impulsive offer, given the relative scarcity. This can result in buyer’s remorse and more conditional sales falling through which has been a factor in our market.
-these grey market listings that do not get to MLS®, also then further diminish the level of listing inventory available to MLS® buyers and therefore enhance the supply shortfall and help cause prices to rise.
-MLS® in recent years even includes most of the FSBO listings, so it is a fantastic central repository and marketplace. By withholding listings from MLS®, Realtors are not doing their seller, buyers or Realtor colleagues any favours.  Think for a moment if there was no MLS®?  Would you want Google or facebook to decide what listings you got to see?  MLS® is still ad free, too!
Do you want to have to scour hundreds of websites daily to find and stay on top of new listings in the marketplace?

Selling scarcity is nothing new:
Realtors, buyers and sellers will always adapt to scarcity and attempt to find ways to take advantage and this is no different, unfortunately, it can also lead to further scarcity in MLS® listings and possibly further demand spikes and price increases which is not good for buyers. It also removes some credibility from the MLS® system, if “ new”  listings are deemed to be old news by the time they are published on MLS®.

Seller choice:
A seller may find a deal without having to go through the full-fledged MLS® prep and marketing process and if they are happy with what they get, then so be it. Clearly, however, the best market value is to be obtained with the widest possible exposure to all buyers and their agents and that only happens with a listing on MLS®

Proponents will argue that they are only “getting the best deal” for their seller client but in many cases, we believe Realtor marketing and differentiation are the principal reason for use of these “grey marketing/non-MLS®” listings and that on balance this is not good for the overall market as it fractures and weakens the  central source of MLS® supply and exacerbates already existing supply problems.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage 613-435-4692

12th year in business as a lower cost brokerage


Ottawa broker rant: real estate listing photos

is this really a key feature of this home?







We really do have a lot of excellent people in our profession and it is on behalf of all these quality sales people and brokers that we offer the following rant on what we feel are really poor real estate practices by some that should not reflect poorly upon us all!

The “snow in June” listing photos:
C’mon guys!…how tough is it to pop by your listing and get a photo update? How is one serving the seller by telegraphing that the listing has been on the market for quite a while…sheesh!

The 1 photo or no photo listing:
Do you think that this is going get people’s attention or that they will come back to check out the listing later?….keep dreamin’!

Too many listing photos:
6 photos of the front door or the bowl on the dining room table….who needs this? There are very few properties that cannot be effectively shown with 25-35 quality photos that show the layout with some perspective.  Some artsy photographers get carried away but few consumers (and trust me, way fewer buyer agents) want to click through 100+ photos!)

The focus on something you’re not buying photos:
How many listings do you see where the focus is the flower arrangement, the staging, the accent wall, the furniture, the artwork, the dining room table, the knick knacks, etc. Do I really need to see a close up of a vase in the middle of a table when I can’t see the room it’s in?

The (old) cellphone photo:
Some of the listing photos we see look like they were taken with an old flip phone. I guess it works for those going for the dark and fuzzy look…but it does nothing for the online viewer and even less for the seller.  This works especially well (not!) with text that brags about the “bright, airy space with lots of natural light”.

The companion photo set is the one from the agent with the latest and most expensive phone but you can tell they took all the listing photos in about 2 minutes (while walking through the property-hence the blur), since they had to rush off and get the Beamer detailed, pick up their commission cheque or get to their mani-pedi, workout or yoga.

The missing photo scam:
Do you really think that smart consumers won’t figure out the yard is ugly, there are hydro towers or an expressway in the backyard, the garage is falling down, the roof is doomed or that the Army Corps of Engineers are needed for kitchen and bathroom renos?

The super wide angle photo:
…don’t you just love the ones where the fridge or stove looks 6-8 feet wide?

The “why-is-this-in-the-photo?” photos:
Sometimes you just have to shake your head at the unusual things that catch your eye in listing photos. The pet, the diaper pail, the garbage can, the Realtor reflection in the shower door or mirror, the car in the driveway, dishes in the sink….anything that distracts the buyer from assessing the house for their needs is bad news.

The-too-many-too-few conundrum:
Condo listings specialize in this awful practice: you get 3 photos of the unit and 12 of the view, the building complex, lobby, gym, pool, or neighbourhood/surrounding area.  Sure you have a great park or bike path down the street but I want to see the darn place I may be buying!

The “why bother” photo set:
Tenant occupied properties lead the way but are not the only source of incredibly messy, disorganized properties that are clearly not ready for prime time. To be honest, some are so scary; you hope you never have a customer call who might want to see one of these suckers!  You are not doing yourself or the seller any favours by listing those in this condition…so why bother?

Shame on you for not investing in professional photos!
Our industry in Ottawa is serviced by many excellent and reasonably priced photographers who do fantastic photography and hosting services at very reasonable rates. If you are listing someone’s property and asking them to pay $15,000-$20,000 (or more) in commissions and won’t shell out $150 to get some decent photos done? …sorry, you shouldn’t be in the business! Oh, and by the way…shame on your brokerage and manager, too!

The “I-forgot-what-the-point-was” photo spread:
The objective of the exercise is to have the prospective buyer see enough of the key features of the property that they will want to come and see it in person and soon! The photos should highlight the critical features, be consistent with the text and be just enough to keep them wanting more.  Too often, these simple objectives seem to be forgotten.

More of the same (and worse!) in the video world:
All of the above issues and more are present in the now ever present video/Utube/social media marketing which is far from an exact science for the amateur productions too many turn out to be.

If we have forgotten any mind boggling real estate photo practices that you see regularly, please let us know!


Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage
613-435-4692 or 613-371-9691

A full service, lower commission brokerage






When is the best time to list my Ottawa property?

Here is a chart we have compiled from monthly Ottawa real estate board published unit sales results (residential and condo property unit sales/month) for the last 5 years. This demonstrates a pretty consistent annual pattern in the Ottawa market.

Spring is key:
April through June are typically our peak sales months and this will come as no surprise for most. Government employees are relocating and families looking for a summer closing and move before the next school year, give this season a major boost.  Each year Ottawa real estate handles some 800-1000 moves in to town by government personnel with an equal number moving away from Ottawa.  The highest % of these are military and RCMP relocations.

Summer surprisingly strong:
There is a significant myth that “real estate is dead in summer” and this table shows this is totally incorrect! July and August are typically the 4th and 5th busiest sales months of the year, so those who “wait until the market picks up in the Fall” are really doing themselves a disservice.

March, September and October:
These are “shoulder” or transition sales months. March activity is increasing for the busy spring and September and October are marked by erosion of peak demand heading in to the slower fall and winter season.

Ottawa sales take a breather, as fewer people want to move during the winter time and seasonal vacations, holiday activity and weather all play a role in making house buying not quite as active. A lot of planning and preparation for the peak season can be done during January and February, so still an active period-just not as many sales.

Personal Objectives most important:
What dictates selling or buying times is often based on a specific property being available and this then drives the sale of an existing home. Those with homes to sell will want to consider their buying and closing timelines in a way that optimizes selling an existing property if at all possible. For example, buying a new home that closes in February means one is selling an existing property in late fall in order to co-ordinate the new home purchase.  This however, is not the best-selling market for the existing property-so the seller will have to take this in to account when doing their pricing and listing plans.

When will my property show best?
Most properties will not show their best until mid-May when leaves are on the trees and everything has “greened up”, so some may wish to time their listing (and photo) plans accordingly. For example, a house with a pool will look much more inviting when the pool is open and warmer temperatures occur.

Is my property ready to list?
It can take longer than one thinks to get a property in HGTV condition for listing and selling, so this must be planned in to the listing cycle.

Competition also a factor:
The quality and number of head to head competitors to the property being sold (both new and resale) also factors in to the timing decision.

How long will it take my property to sell?
Sellers will have to factor in both selling and closing time in to the planning timeline and these can vary widely by location, price point and property type.

Bottom line:
There are a lot of variables to be considering in the listing, marketing and selling process and your Realtor is best equipped to help facilitate the process and optimize results based on all these factors. If one is planning a purchase or sale this year, January and February are the ideal months to sit down and have a planning discussion with your Realtor and any other key 3rd parties ie mortgage broker, stager, trades people.

If you are not already working with another Realtor, we are happy to provide a no cost, no obligation market evaluation of your property to help you with your real estate objectives.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage
613-435-4692 or mobile 613-371-9691
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Is buying an Ottawa property for a visiting student a good idea?

Over the years we have assisted many out of town buyers looking to purchase homes or condos to provide housing for their children who are coming to Ottawa to attend one of our large and growing post-secondary colleges or universities.

With limited on campus residences and cost factors in mind, many parents have bought apartments, townhomes or homes to accommodate student needs and also as an investment or cost offset.

Many have successfully bought and then sold several years later and either made some money or minimized the cost of accommodating the student during their years here in Ottawa.

Once a “slam dunk”….
For most of the new millennium, this practice has been pretty positive, particularly for those who have rented out rooms to other students as well as their own children and those parents who have more than one child who will be living in Ottawa during the same period.

Now that we are in a period where prices have not been advancing at 5%-7+ annually, as they did during the 2000-2011 timeframe, this practice is no longer the “slam dunk” it was for many parents. We recently completed a sale for an out of town family who bought in 2010 in a strong seller’s market and were able to sell in 2015 but only appreciated a very small increase in the price of the property from what they had paid 5 years earlier. While this was disappointing, these owners had kept the property well rented out to other students during the 5 years of ownership and therefore, still came out pretty well financially, despite the limited uptick in the value of the property.

Do you want your university age child to bear the burden of ownership and property management?
Some out of town parents may not wish to burden their children with the responsibilities of managing and maintaining the property; collecting rent, divvying up utility costs, being a disciplinarian and so forth, in addition to their school work and perhaps part time job. Other parents may deem this a good “learning experience” and see it is as an opportunity.

Many factors to consider:
Those considering the purchase of such a property here in Ottawa should carefully research all financial factors in buying and selling in a remote city and the best source of information is a local Realtor who can assist with competitive issues, neighbourhood choice, property choice, local rules, buying and selling costs and so forth. This practice is certainly no longer a “slam dunk” in our  market and should not be carefully researched with local professionals.

For more information or to discuss particular circumstances, feel free to give us a call if you are not already working with another Realtor.

Gord McCormick, Broker of Record
Dawn Davey, Broker
Oasis Realty Brokerage

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