Are coming soon signs headed for Canada?

by Olivia D'Orazio25 Sep 2014
As inventory continues to lag behind sales in super-heated housing markets like Toronto and Vancouver, some agents look to ‘coming soon’ signs to prepare and excite would-be buyers for a chance at that in-demand area.

Agents say the use of pre-emptive signage on a property's front lawn or in the virtual listing can build up even more interest than a typical ‘for sale’ sign ever could.

“I think it could be a good idea,” Phyllis Shapiro, a real estate agent in Toronto, tells REP. “It puts people on notice that something is coming and often people looking in an area, especially for houses, if it’s coming on the market, some people may wait to see what products are coming and what prices are coming.”

Alerting the public to a house that's not yet on the market can foster public interest and entice buyers with the thrill of the house hunt. However, in hot markets, the move could open homeowners to bullish buyers who are more inclined to hound sellers for sneak-peek showings and bully bids.

In the U.S., online real estate database Zillow announced a new ‘coming soon’ feature that angered several agents, prompting many there to question its legality.

Here in Canada, however, Bruce Matthews, the Real Estate Council of Ontario’s deputy registrar of regulatory compliance, tells REP that ‘coming soon’ signs fall under RECO’s advertising guidelines.

“One of the underlying philosophies of our advertising requirements is: say what you mean and mean what you say,” he says. “So if you don’t have a listing agreement in place, you shouldn’t be saying ‘coming soon’.”

Similarly, agents must have the written consent of the seller and must specify to what the listing is soon coming.

“If you have an exclusive listing that’s coming soon to MLS, [the sign] should specify that,” Matthews says.

In short, Realtors are free to advertise homes that are soon-to-be for sale – and some agents are already inquiring about the practice.

“Even in the last month, we’ve had a bump of people asking,” Matthews says. “You just need to ensure that the message you’re sending is the message you’re intending to send.”

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