The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) is launching a pilot project that will allow buyers to see registered offers placed on a property as they are submitted.
In partnership with Australian software company Openn Negotiation, CREA, which is in charge of setting national standards for Canadian realtors, has created Openn Offers; a management software that will track real estate offers in real-time, displaying them on a property’s REALTOR.ca listing.
The goal of Openn Offers is to increase transparency and provide buyers with more information when purchasing a property, says Pierre Leduc, media relations spokesperson for CREA. The project is still in the planning process, but Leduc says the association’s aim is to test Openn Offers in select markets across Canada this summer.
Which markets will be selected is still up in the air. Since Canadian real estate is governed at a provincial level each province has its own rules around how a real estate transaction is conducted and what information is allowed to be disclosed. CREA is currently in talks with 11 real estate regulators across the country to determine how Openn Offers will operate in each province.
“Our first step is to define the provincial [regulations] that actually allow this project to be more transparent,” Leduc says. “Then it’s finding boards within the province that are willing to host.”
If Ontario is selected as a host, Leduc says that at a minimum, Openn Offers will show buyers how many offers have been made on a property and what the highest offer is. A recent announcement made by the Ontario government could expand these parameters, though. As of April 1, 2023, sellers in Ontario will have the option to disclose offer amounts in a multi-offer scenario. This option will be voluntary, but it could give buyers a sense of where they rank among the bids and ensure they don’t overpay for the property. This feature wouldn’t kick in on Openn Offers until next year.
Leduc adds that for an offer to be recognized by Open Offers, the buyer needs to be working with a licensed realtor who can process their bid through the system.
CREA’s announcement came only a week after the federal government released its 2022 Budget, in which the feds pledged to eliminate blind bidding from real estate transactions in an effort to make housing prices more affordable.
Blind bidding is the default practice used by real estate agents across Canada in multi-offer scenarios. It requires buyers to bid for a property without knowing the amout of competing offers—a common scenario seen in Ontario’s cottage country over the last two years. The crackdown on blind bidding comes after some critics have pointed to it as a culprit in driving up real estate prices. But Katie Steinfeld, broker of record for real estate agency On The Block, disagrees.
“There are situations where one buyer will significantly overpay versus everybody else, and in those situations, I would say for sure that will not help decrease prices.” But this tends to be an exception, Steinfeld says. On The Block operates its own auction platform, providing similar information to what Openn Offers plans to disclose. When the size of competing bids are disclosed in auctions, Steinfeld says she found that prices jumped higher.
“A lot of buyers, their argument is when they’re in a blind bidding situation, they don’t want to go up any higher because they don’t know what the next highest offer is. They don’t want to overpay,” she says. “But if they know what they need to pay in order to get the home, that can push them up even higher.”
Steinfeld says she doesn’t believe eliminating blind bidding will suddenly tame Ontario’s runaway real estate prices, but she does think that CREA’s attempt to provide buyers with more information is a step in the right direction.
“I don’t think this will have an immediate impact. I think opening things up and making things more transparent is going to be a process. But I think it will start helping [the market] out and bring more opportunities and options to buyers and sellers,” she says. “Having more information at their disposal is always a good thing.”