How Is This NOT False Advertising?


4 minute read

April 2, 2013

April Fool’s, or Groundhog’s Day?  I feel like it’s the latter…

I feel like I’ve written this before, only this time, there is no question as to whether this is false advertising.

Tie goes to the runner, and I can’t resist posting this one as well:

So let’s talk a little bit about false advertising in real estate, shall we?

Every consumer will have his or her opinion on what constitutes false advertising, and unfortunately, listing a house for $999,000 with “offers graciously reviewed on April 7th” and then selling the house for $1,185,000 is NOT false advertising.

People don’t like it, but it happens all the time, and it’s not false advertising.

The only way, in real estate, that a seller (and/or agent) can be guilty of false advertising is if they advertise a price that they would not accept, AND demonstrate that they would not accept it, AND keep the price the same after doing so.

For example, listing a house at $999,000, only reviewing offers on April 7th, and ending up with $1,185,000 doesn’t qualify, since the sellers never demonstrated that they wouldn’t accept the $999,000 price.  Sure, they were never going to accept that price, and the house was priced for a bidding war, but nobody offered them $999,000, they never turned it down, and thus they were never guilty of false advertising.

In fact, it would be really, really difficult to be guilty of false advertising in real estate.

You’d have to be really, really stupid.

You’d basically have to write something to the effect of “The seller will not accept the asking price,” which we all know, no person on the planet is stupid enough to do.


A real estate agent, with all that super-duper important training and schooling that goes into a real estate licence these days, would never be so completely out of touch as to genuinely point out their false advertising gimmick.  Right?

Or, maybe not.

Take a look at the MLS caption for this listing below:

Thanks to my colleague, Anita Merlo, for bringing this to my attention.  Anita has 27  years in the business, and sits on the RECO Ethics panel, so I think she’s a good person to bring this to light!

“Any Offer Must Be Higher than The Askin’price Upon The Satisfactory Of The Seller.”

Okay, first thing’s first: this person clearly cannot speak English.

But don’t want my blog-troll, Rene Brassard, to come on here and start pointing out speling and grammmatical errors, or we’ll be here all day…

My fear here, to be honest, is that this agent could get away with this because his/her English so poor, and something like, “…..upon the satisfactory of the seller” might be an excuse, as it shows that the seller can’t string two words together, and maybe, perhaps, this was an honest mistake.  Maybe the agent isn’t really saying, “The seller won’t accept the asking price,” as we ALL know it is intended to say!

Folks, this is blatant false advertising, and I’ve never seen anything like it.

A listing agent could verbally say, “My sellers want more than asking” in a phone conversation, and you could never prove it’s false advertising.

A seller could sign-back an offer above the asking price, then leave the for-sale-price the same the next day, and you’d have a hard time convincing RECO there’s a case.

But this is clearly false advertising.

The property is listed for $519,900, and if the seller were offered, $520,000, and rejected it, they’d legally have to re-list the next day at $520,001.

But why even bother with that?

The seller has spoken, via his or her agent, saying “Any Offer Must Be Higher Than The Asking Price.”

This is NOT the same thing as a seller pricing at $999,000, holding-back offers, and creating a bidding war.

This is like offering a Big Mac for $1.99, and then saying, “That will be six dollars please,” and not selling it for anything less.

You can’t put a price-tag of $19.99 on a shirt at Winners and then charge the consumer $22.00 at the register.  And you certainly can’t tell them you’re going to do so!

Who would ever get involved with this listing?

-As-is condition
-Offers submitted electronically only (ie. no presentation allowed)
-Offers presented as per seller’s instructions
-2 Business days irrevocable

Oh yeah, and the offer price must be higher than the listing price!

And you should see their Schedule-B!

It looks like this listing agent wants to indemnify him/herself of any and all liability, take zero responsibility for the listing, and above all, has no problem demonstrating blatant false advertising.

Let me be honest here, folks.

I’ve had a RECO complaint filed against me for something I wrote on my blog.  Something that was utterly anonymous (only the person who read what I wrote would know/assume it was about him/her), totally true, and something that the average consumer would want to know.

So RECO can spend time chasing down bogus complaints that will never amount to anything, but how about tackling the listing above, where the listing agent is committing the very definition of false advertising?

Isn’t this something we’d like to change?  Something we’d like to get out of the industry?

That stands for “Data Integrity Service,” and it’s where you need to send emails when you see things on MLS listings that shouldn’t be there.

As for RECO complaints, I’ll let you guys use your Google-fu to figure it out.

You all know that I can’t post the address of the listing above, or I’d be in trouble.  (I know how ironic that is…)

Sure, this is one case out of tens of thousands, but it bothers me, and it bothered enough agents in my office that two different people put the listing on my desk with notes that said, “David, you need to blog about this.”

Just don’t paint all Realtors with the same brush.

Some people are actually committing these acts, while others are trying to bring them to light, and get them out of the industry…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. Ralph Cramdown

    at 7:29 am

    What exactly does this contravene? It doesn’t seem to be specifically covered in REBBA 2002, we know that TREB is just fine with an agent listing a property at $1. I don’t think the Consumer Protection Act applies to used home sales, and RECO doesn’t enforce that anyway. Are there prior RECO decisions that have ruled that bogus list prices violate REBBA’s general inaccurate representation/misrepresentation rules?

    Not that I’m cheerleading for the practice, you understand.

    1. ScottyP

      at 1:21 pm

      I was wondering about the properties listed for $1 as well.

  2. derek

    at 7:54 am

    The English and punctuation used would not have got me through junior school. Is this all it takes to sell a million dollar house?

    1. Vlad

      at 9:26 am

      Since when is $520k a million dollars? Obviously, your math would not get you through junior school either.

      1. Geoff

        at 10:02 am

        Jeez Vlad, it was a valid point and you know what he meant. You and this Rene guy should form a support club for those who see trees but not the forest.

        1. David Smeriglio

          at 10:55 am

          There is a character limitation in the fields which necessitates short hand. The field also auto capitalize.

  3. Paully

    at 8:56 am

    Is there only a mirror-fogging test on the RE exam or something? Wow, that is a brutal listing!

    On the bright side, agents like that one make make educated, literate, knowledgeable ones like you look so much better by comparison.

  4. JC

    at 3:17 pm

    It could easily be a full-time job if I wanted to sit and “dis” listings on TREB. My favorites are those that are still marked “NEW” when you know the damn thing has sold and firmed up and often closed. So much for the rules.

    RECO is a joke. Another cash grab.

    They make such a big deal about not trading without your slip of paper, but then take over a month to process your renewal because they’re too busy ‘concentrating on getting new registrations’ processed.

    Someone complained about something you said? It doesn’t seem to show up on the RECO site. I once tried reporting another Realtor for obvious unprofessional behavior regarding my listing. The hoops RECO wanted me to jump through left me wondering who they were really trying to protect.

  5. Geoff

    at 9:36 am

    That’s a good question Ralph asks about the $1 Listing – David can you respond?

    1. David Smeriglio

      at 10:14 am

      One dollar? I did not think I would ever do it but I did! And justifiably. I had a country property in Churchville that suited that strategy perfectly.(if you`re asking yourself where that is you`re not alone)

      Metrics and feedback showed me that people were simply not recognizing or mistakenly thinking that this property was located in north Brampton. In over a month my Vtour received a grand total of 6 agent views and 28 from other sources. This was unacceptable for a property on an acre backing unto the Credit River five minutes from the Missisauga border. Price was a little high, but not so high as to have people avoid it. The bigger issue was the old district divisions; agents and buyers were simply not associating that area with acreage properties therefore not looking for it.

      So we did it. One dollar! The amount of hits reached the thousands in weeks. We had dozens of showings. When I explained the rational it was well received. Sure I ruffled a few feathers however my job is to work in the best interest of my client, not make Realtors happy, we sold for $850,000. In the absence of comparable properties it was close to market value. I needed to get exposure for the property and I accomplished that. We needed to peg a market value in the absence of previous comparables and without local land sales to support ground up rebuild evaluation.

      I think this is clearly different than listing at one dollar in Bloor West Village (for instance). It could be argued that listing at 999,000 and expecting 1 150 000 is just as underhanded, however in my opinion a one dollar listing in a known hotbed opens a can of worms and could bring in unwanted attention from unlikely buyers.

      There is no rational for a one dollar listing when exposure is present. There has to be some thought given to how we are perceived as a profession and causing insanity when more civil means can be employed does not exactly endear us to the public.

      I have noticed one dollar listings in C1 and City Centre Mississauga one bedroom condo market…good strategy???

  6. Rene Brassard

    at 5:59 pm

    Hey, I’m just glad David is paying closer attention to the details. I’m here to help.

    As for this price being false advertising, every real estate agent and/or seller has something in their listing that is “false”. If anything, this agent was being very honest by pointing out that only higher offers would be accepted, rather than the more common but still icky method of low-pricing in order to start a bidding war.

  7. John j

    at 1:17 pm

    If an owner tears down a small bungalow and then erects a house with 3 times the square footage, can he advertise the taxes on that house to be that equivalent of those paid on the bungalow? Is that false advertising?

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