Monday Morning Quarterback: The Untimely Demise of Zoocasa


7 minute read

June 15, 2015

This story broke last week, but I was too busy writing uninformed, uneducated, ramblings about the Gardiner Expressway to really give this story its fair due.

The reaction to the announcement that Zoocasa is shutting down has been mixed, but whether you ask Realtors, or consumers searching for real estate, you’ll find both those who celebrate the announcement, and those that lament it.

Napster may have been shuttered in 2002, but it eventually paved the way for Limewire, Frostwire, Kazaa, and you might argue Netflix as well.

Perhaps one day we’ll look back at Zoocasa as a trail-blazer that never got its due…


NOTE: This blog post was written in 2015 when Rogers owned Zoocasa.

The information contained herein does not apply to the current iteration of Zoocasa Realty Inc. Brokerage.

Much has changed since 2015.

But I will leave this blog post up so that readers may see where Zoocasa began, and also how the CEO, Lauren Haw, purchased the company and completely turned things around.



Let me start this blog post with a bang, just in case anybody is skimming.

What do I think about Zoocasa?

It’s the most uninformed real estate buyers in Toronto hiring the worst Realtors in Toronto.

But unlike many Realtors out there, I’m not celebrating the demise of Zoocasa.  In fact, I loved having them around.

Competition, in any industry, is a good thing.

We have some of the worst service, and highest prices, for cellular telephone service on planet earth, and perhaps it’s because there are only three major carriers in Canada.

If there was only one hot dog stand outside Rogers Centre on days when the Blue Jays were playing, those dogs would come at a massive premium, and the vendor might substitute for a lesser product.

I’ve always maintained that having competition in the real estate industry is a good thing, and the public, absolutely, positively, needs access to various business models.

Fact: I work for a full-service brokerage, and I am a full-service agent that charges the “standard” 5% fee for service when I list a property.

But that doesn’t mean that I was “cheering” when Zoocasa shut down.

Last week, I was astounded by the stupidity of Realtors who posted on Facebook and other social media sites, praising the shut-down of Zoocasa.  It makes them look like feeble, pathetic losers who were always threatened by the existence of competition, and a different business model.

I was embarrassed for these Realtors.  It demonstrated their lack of awareness.  Anybody cheering Zoocasa’s demise clearly has a low opinion of their own skills, and the public will take notice.  Realtors saying things like, “This is Awesome!” and then posting the article from the Globe or The Star end up looking so spiteful.

When a member of the Toronto Blue Jays is watching sports highlights at night, and sees that a member of the Boston Red Sox tore his ACL and MCL, and is out for the year, does that baseball player start jumping up and down, thinking, “This is great!  Now we won’t have to play against him!”?

The public wanted, and continues to demand, access to various real estate business models, and that’s what Zoocasa was able to provide.

Whether it’s a “discount brokerage” that takes listings at 3%, or an online brokerage that offers you a 15% rebate of the buyer-agent’s commission, the public wants to make up their own mind about who to hire, and that’s what the free market is about.

Choice, and competition, are necessary in every industry.

Property Guys & Zoocasa ensure that “full service” Realtors don’t become complacent, and continue to refine their services and skills.

Now before I sound like I’m a Zoocasa-supporter, let me state unequivocally – I welcome the competition they provide, but I think the idea is awful.

I’m a firm believer in “you get what you pay for,” and it’s true of many, if not, most industries.

I’ve always maintained, “You wouldn’t seek a discount on laser eye surgery because there’s too much at stake.  It’s your eyes!  You want to hire somebody who is the best at what they do, and who you can trust.”

Well, I think the same theory applies to real estate.

I’ve seen, time and time again, sellers cut corners and lose money.  They’ll never know in the end.  You can only sell your home once, and you can’t quantify with absolute certainty what “Agent-A” can get for the house versus “Agent-B.”

But I’ve been on the other side before, representing buyers.  I’ve worked with some of the worst discount listing agents in the city, and seen them sell out their own clients.  I’ve worked with the “for sale by owner” sellers as well, and I love the opportunity to negotiate with a seller, and not their agent!

Well that’s on the sell side, right?

What about the buy side, like Zoocasa?

It’s very simple, folks.  These “top agents” that Zoocasa advertises, are anything but.

I think it’s fair to say that if an agent is kicking back their commission, and paying a fee and a split to Zoocasa, they’re doing that because they have to.

None of the top agents in the city woke up one day and said, “I think I’ll join Zoocasa so I can take home about 40% of what I’d make if I were doing this with another brokerage.”

And it’s this that I’d expect the public to see.  But you know what?  They didn’t.  Not all of them, at least.

I don’t understand a buyer who goes to Zoocasa to get a 15% rebate on the buyer-agent’s commission.

This buyer clearly thinks that all Realtors are the same, and none of them have any value, and thus the 15% rebate is found money.

But Realtors aren’t all the same.

There are good ones, and bad ones.

And it would seem that most of the agents associated with Zoocaza were agents that “needed” to make money, and had no choice put to look for a real estate pimp.

I tried Zoocasa a few times, just to see what would happen.

I registered with a Gmail address, and filled out the search profile.  I said that I wanted an agent who was an “expert” in Leaside, and low and behold, the agent they “referred” to me was somebody who worked for Century 21 on Highway 7 in Markham.

Yes, that’s an “expert” in Leaside.

The issue, of course, is that none of the top-20 agents in Leaside are affiliated with Zoocasa, and for good reason, of course.

But Zoocasa isn’t going to say, “Sorry, we don’t have any ‘top agents’ for this area, so please go to a competitor.”

I wouldn’t expect them to, and I wouldn’t do that if I owned the site, but nonetheless, these are not “top agents.”

I will admit – there are a few decent agents on there, and some that used to be big players.  But for the most part, these are people that have no choice but to sign-up.

In any event, I don’t think it was the lack of real top agents that did Zoocasa in.

I think they just befell the same fate as just about any business that doesn’t work: too many expenses, not enough revenue.

The money they spent was outrageous.  We’ve all heard the incessant radio ads, and along with the billboards, that adds up!

But I don’t think they were making nearly enough money from real estate sales either.  And even if they didn’t spend that whack of cash on radio ads, eventually, the business probably still would have failed.

Yes, there are people out there that think all Realtors are the same, and welcome the opportunity to buy a $500,000 condo through a crappy agent, and get an $1,875 rebate.

But clearly, there aren’t enough of those people on which to build a successful business.

I also suspect that the affiliation with Rogers might have soured people.

We all hate Rogers.  That’s a fact.  Like life, death, and taxes.

So how would people feel about essentially buying a house or condo through Rogers?

Here is a snapshot of the comments in the Toronto Star article about Zoocasa shutting down:


I found their radio ads to be screaming “Rogers,” although they were also done in the same vein as those awful bank ads that pander to the lowest common denominator.

You know those bank ads, something like, “Honey, guess what?  I found a thousand dollars today!  No, silly, I don’t mean I found a stack of bills, but I mean our local RBC/TD/CIBC account specialist/guru/expert/superhero was able to look over our accounts and save us $1,000!”

I hate those ads.  The ones on television are worse.  It’s always some clueless couple that looks at eachother with shock and awe as a person behind a desk points to a stack of paper with a pen.

The radio advertisements for Zoocasa were worse than both combined.

They reeked of a Rogers/TD/CIBC or some other multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, and most of all, they were overplayed.  I think people just started tuning them out.

So what’s the one big positive to come out of all this?

Why did I compare Zoocasa to Napster at the onset?

Well ever since I’ve been in the business, I’ve been thoroughly unimpressed with the resources available to the public, whether from organized real estate, or third parties.

I know that many of you believe that organized real estate is a monopoly that is conspiring to keep the amount of information the public receives to a minimum, and to be honest, I can understand why you think that.

I don’t know if all of this is done deliberately, with malice, but I do know that and are websites that are a decade out of date.

I don’t know what CREA, OREA, and TREB spend their fees on (as an example, TREB gets about $40,000,000 per year from us), but I can guarantee it’s not the public version of MLS!

When my buyer-clients send me listings, I’d estimate that 40% of the time, it’s a link from, but the other 60% of the time, it’s a link from or

The interface on Zolo blows MLS out of the water, and when there are alternatives to something that doesn’t satisfy demand, then people are going to find it, and use it.

Zolo & Zoocasa are exactly that.

And while Zoocasa will be shutting down because their business model doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that “a better mousetrap” can’t be built to rival the piece of sh!t that CREA gives to the public to search active listings.

Even my brokerage, Bosley Real Estate, was able to put together a better property search feature than MLS, and we have a pittance of the financial resources that CREA does.

Simply put, organized real estate has not kept up with technology, and that leaves an opportunity for somebody else.

Don’t get me wrong – I do believe that MLS is owned and operated by CREA, and as a result, they should have full control over it, and the information contained therein.  I mean, your daughter’s softball team can’t complain that they want to play against the New York Yankees, so it’s foolish for the public to think that they should be able to use a private company’s data and resources.

But in 2015, the public is demanding more information, and better access to it.  CREA hasn’t provided it, and Zoocasa & Zolo were up to the challenge.

Maybe there will be another Zoocasa in the future, who knows.

Their impact for now will be seen as negligible, and people will use their name as the brunt of real estate punchlines.  But down the line, we might look back at Zoocasa as something that opened a door or two.  I’ll be curious to see, what, if anything, comes through that door…

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

Find Out More About David Read More Posts

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  1. Long Time Realtor

    at 7:57 am

    Let’s dispel the notion that Zoocasa’s business model was novel or ground-breaking. Back in the early 90’s, a company called “Real Estate’s Most Wanted” was the first to tackle the refer-an-agent-for-a-cut-of-the-action concept. Of course, much like Zoocasa, it attracted mostly bottom feeders and lasted less than a year.

    Similarly, Zoocasa lost money from inception and continued to bleed negative cash-flow every month thereafter. It lasted two years only because Rogers has deep pockets, not because the business model was brilliant or innovative.

    Before Zoocasa, it had been rumoured for years that one of the big Telco’s was eyeing the real estate landscape. The theory was that once they (Bell, Telus, Rogers… etc.) got a foot-hold in the industry they would stand it on its ear, what with all the resources and technical expertise at their fingertips.

    Apparently, re-inventing the wheel ain’t so easy. Let this be a cautionary tale.

  2. johnny chase

    at 9:05 am

    I never understood the Zoocasa model either or why someone would use them. Find you own agent – one that you like and is knowledgeable and is a real top. 99/100 will give you a 15% discount on the fee anyway to sell a home,,,

  3. Noel

    at 9:21 am

    I don’t think clients have the ability to figure out who is a good agent or not. They go mostly by whether they like the person, what they look like etc and how many homes the agent has transacted in the last couple of years. All that shows is how good the agent is at marketing themselves not the home.

    You talk a lot about ‘top’ agents and no doubt feel you are one. I won’t comment on that but have to say I just happened upon your blog last week and enjoy reading it and thank you for writing it.

    Marketing a home is not rocket science. All good agents do the same marketing. There is no special sauce to listing really. If there is I would love for you to write a column about what exactly ‘top’ listing agents do, other than advising the clients to stage the home, perhaps getting an inspection from a reputable company with copies available to prospective buyers, having the photographs done, perhaps a video, creating a custom website, creating a nice brochure, write up a good listing, determining a listing price, holding agents open houses and public open houses (the latter more to market the agent more than the home really), placing newspaper ads and perhaps classified internet ads (the latter not necessarily depending on the property), postal drops for marketing material amongst a few other very minor additional marketing angles. Once you do all that it is the buyer’s agent that brings the buyer (and you as a listing agent are also a buyer’s agent). It’s not like you knock on doors asking people to buy the home or drag them for the street. I am not even going to mention Customer Service 101 (returning phone calls promptly, etc).

    As for acting for a buyer listening to the client and their needs is paramount and then showing them properties that meet their criterion. Again not rocket science. As for ‘negotiating’ the A of P&S I’ve bought a number of homes through ‘top’ agents and there is not much there either. Hold off on offers until a certain date/time to get a bidding war going and sign the offer back at a higher price (and perhaps deal with some conditions) and wait to hear back.

    Anyway would LOVE to hear what a top agent can add in terms of what I have already listed that makes their ‘marketing’ so much better than another agent who does the same marketing, ie the ‘special sauce’. Every marketing brochure I have gotten from so-called top agents who want to list my home look identical and when I ask what else they will do and what differentiates them from the competition I get is a blank stare.

    Btw, my comment is in no way meant to diminish the amount of work an agent does. I know it can be long hours and many interrupts into the evening late and on weekends. I just don’t think it is hard work or rocket science nor does the commission bear any relation to the work done. (It’s 18% more work than last year, ie the avg house price increase? Compare that to wage inflation at only 2%?) I have yet to have any agent disprove me.

    1. Long Time Realtor

      at 9:44 am

      @Noel. You’re absolutely right. Real estate sales sure ain’t ‘rocket surgery’, that’s for sure. Since clearly you’re mind is already made up and disproving your thesis by way of debate would be a waste of time.

      Let me suggest that you get your real estate licence, give the business a go and report back to us upon your wildly successful and easy career success.

      1. Noel

        at 9:51 am

        No, I have a very open mind, hence why I wrote the post. My mind is not made up at all.

        What are the other ‘marketing strategies’ that make a good agent?

        1. Chroscklh

          at 12:08 pm

          Noel, you make the point which is good. But as other point out, though this not surgery with rocket, top agent work hard, check all box above. Many do not or make screw up along way. Also, top agent do all above, work tirelessly, always available, and presumably have wisdom/experience for to make better bid or insight in market. Not in all case true I guess. I use top agent once when sell house who make screw up couple big places. But where count, he effective at persuade buyer agent that big bid require for Chroscklh to sell house. Come back with bid well above what I expect. And I no have threaten physical harm too.

          1. Noel

            at 9:10 am

            Yes, but what they primarily work hard at is marketing themselves. Once they have a client the work they need to do is pretty routine and goes by pretty well a standard script with a few changes here and there based on the property.

            I have seen the ‘work’ they have done on all the homes I bought and sold. It isn’t that much. It’s not my problem they have a lot of work to market themselves. I am more concerned about the work they are doing to market my home or find me one. Not much I have found.

            That’s the distinction most people miss.

    2. Marina

      at 10:39 am

      The thing is, most jobs out there are not rocket science. There is no special sauce. It’s just hard work. And most people don’t want to do hard work.

      So you are right, all a good agent has to do is all of the above, but how many agents do that?

      1. jeff316

        at 11:06 am

        Exactly. I think, too, that the rise of online access to listings and this really hot market have shadowed much of the role of strategy in selling and buying a house.

        There is this idea that you just spruce it up, take nice photos and put it out there. Or, if you’re the buying agent, you just lead the horse to water.

        That may be true, but how and when you list, at how much, with what timing, how you play off other listings (past and present), which features are highlighted, which ones aren’t, how you administer inquiries, offers, negotiations, who you target, etc., all contribute to how quickly a house sells and for how much. Buying agents also have a strong role for strategy in helping their buyers get the best house or the best price – particularly with regard to targeting areas or listings, the timing of visits and bids, how much you bid, what conditions you include, and how you interact with the sellers.

        If the original poster hasn’t noticed how his agents have gone above and beyond the basic work to help him as a buyer then it’s obvious that he hasn’t worked with top agents.

        1. Noel

          at 11:41 am

          I have used 3 President’s Club agents on different houses. None of the stuff you have mentioned seems like rocket science to me. As for strategy, no agent has been able to demonstrate what they did changed or did differently to me because of their ‘strategy’. I’ve asked them what they have done differently from other listings in my area .I get a lot real estate speak but not much substance. You post on MLS you means you post, there is no way to post differently. Sure the way it is written up has a strategy but that is not terribly difficult to figure out. Highlight the features that are important to buyers, etc.Timing of bids has been spelled out on here countless times. As for conditions, conditional on inspection and financing are the two major ones and I am not even seeing that anymore all of the time. Anyway, I could go on, but I just don’t see that any of what you have posted requires that much skill. Hard work yes, but not that much skill.

          1. Long Time Realtor

            at 12:02 pm

            “A cynic is a person who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.”

            ~ Oscar Wilde

          2. jeff316

            at 2:08 pm

            Judging from your posts, it seems that you have been left non-plussed by the services you have procured from real estate agents.

            This might be because, as your posts show, you have a very limited understanding of what is involved in the successful sale of real estate in this market. Your idea of success seems to be pretty narrow. I do not work in the real estate field, but to my knowledge the President’s Club designation is applied to top grossing agents. High sales volumes or cumulative sales revenues are not necessarily marks of a top agent. There is a lot more to a top agent than just completing the sale.

            You continue to say that real estate sales do not require much skill, yet a) you continue to rely on the service of a real estate agent and b) you don’t seem to be successful at finding an agent that you’re happy with. The common denominator in this situation is you, and not the real estate field.

          3. Noel

            at 9:13 am

            Actually I haven’t relied on real estate agents ever since I could get a flat rate MLS listing.I also passed the OREA licensing course a couple months. I did the course in 5 months and it was so easy I couldn’t believe it.

      2. Noel

        at 11:35 am

        I wish agents would then just admit that they’ll work hard for me instead of constantly claiming they have this marketing plan that is so much better than the other top agents. Honesty goes far with me.

    3. joel

      at 8:53 pm

      Some of the things I have seen top agents do is: provide a floor plan on the listing sheet, offer free staging, arrange for any work that needs to be done to your house.

      I live in an area that gets lots of flyers/cards, but it is the same agents that send them. I think while the recipe you describe is pretty simple, many agents only do half of those things at best.

    4. Kyle

      at 11:12 am

      At the end of the day, if you want to insist on diminishing one’s job to the most basic elements and then dismiss those elements as something other than “skill”, then even rocket science isn’t rocket science, after all it’s really just propelling hunks of metal into space. That doesn’t require “skill”, just lots of fuel and a few mathematical formulas.

      It’s moot whether top Agents work harder, have more “skill”, better marketing, bigger network, better execution, better honed gut, experience at reading markets, better negotiating tactics or all of the above. And don’t forget all the things a client doesn’t see, like getting the word out to ensure a successful Agent Open House, following up with potential buyers who have been through to get their feedback, etc. Personally, i don’t care how they do it. In my opinion what matters is results, and as someone who has transacted a lot and follows the Toronto market very closely, i definitely see a material difference in what top agents sell houses for and how quickly they sell vs other agents. Let’s just say in my many years of real estate watching, i don’t think i’ve ever seen a discount broker setting new neighbourhood records.

  4. Appraiser

    at 9:28 am

    One of the erroneous reasons cited in the media for Zoocasa’s failure, had to to with the fact that they, along with several other brokerages (including Bosely), were prohibited from continuing to provide sold data (in contravention of current MLS rules) to subscribers as per a recent edict from TREB.

    Funny thing is that not only was the subscription free, thereby not a revenue generator for Rogers, but every other company that complied with the prohibition is still in business.

  5. Jason H

    at 10:59 am

    Speaking from experience using a “top rated” realtor (selling) and using Zoocasa (buying). I would say that Zoocasa had a really good idea giving me money back on a purchase.

    I would recommend the realtor they recommended to us in a heart beat. So I don’t agree with it as a bottom feeder mentality.

    I think that the real estate agents that were against it were just being judgmental and protective of their market share.

    1. Long Time Realtor

      at 11:24 am

      @Jason H: Sure getting money back was great for you, but how sustainable was it for the company?

      Here’s a rhetorical proposition for you:
      If kicking back part of the commission was such a great idea, why is Zoocasa out of business?

      1. Jason H

        at 12:15 pm

        It obviously wasn’t sustainable in its current form and no one can argue that but CREA did try (and successfully) hampered their original business model. That model has proven successful in the states (and one province I believe in Canada?). I also get that CREA has IP they want to protect.

        So what was the point of your reply other than you being offended with my post.

      2. Noel

        at 12:22 pm

        Your rhetorical proposition proves nothing. That’s like saying a few years ago “If electric cars were such a great idea, why are electric car companies out of business (or struggling)”. Then along comes Tesla.

        The fact they are out of business proves nothing. MLS is a controlled monopoly that is fighting too the and nail to keep it that way and Zoocasa’s strategy was not powerful enough to upset the apple cart because of industry forces.

        1. Long Time Realtor

          at 12:59 pm

          @Noel and Jason H:

          You are both now devolving into illogical, poorly-informed rants. Zoocasa was a registered real estate broker and a member of CREA.

          MLS is a trademark, not a monopoly. Ontario alone has 40 separate real estate boards, many of which have their own exclusive MLS systems, not accessible by non-members, even outside Realtors.

          A little education can go a long way.Try reading someone other than Garth Turner once in a while. Sheesh!

          1. Noel

            at 2:12 pm

            Let’s dispense with accusing people of ranting just because you disagree. Your stance is illogical and I never read or have read Garth.

            I am talking about the MLS listing system not whether the name itself is a trademark. Of course we know it’s a trademark, as is Realtor, Realtors, etc. The MLS system is a monopoly as it is the only place one can list to get maximum exposure and it contains 90% of all listings. Other listing services do not scratch the surface in terms of providing the same exposure. The Canadian Competition Bureau even cites this in their tribunal cases. Within each separate real estate board there is the same monopoly. The fact that their are many of them is a non-sequitur.

          2. jeff316

            at 7:07 am

            But, as you mention, it is not a monopoly. It is just the best of the lot. You really seem to have a bone to pick here, eh?

          3. Noel

            at 8:49 am

            Jeff316. It is effectively a monopoly. You don’t have to have 100% market share to be a monopoly. The Canadian Competition Bureau describes it as such too.

            You seem to have a bone to pick.

          4. Jason H

            at 9:44 am

            “You are both now devolving into illogical, poorly-informed rants. Zoocasa was a registered real estate broker and a member of CREA.”

            I have yet to “rant” as you suggest although I see you “ranting”. The reason it was registered was because it was effectively coerced or face the wrath of the monopoly. Let’s use your own statement. “A little education can go a long way.”.

            I started this whole post by saying I thought Zoocasa was good and I felt that realtors we’re being judgmental by calling realtors who used it bottom of the barrel.

            Actually I read alot about real estate even from Garth Turner. He has valid points just as David has valid points and albeit it you as well (ouch the back handed compliment).

  6. Huuk

    at 11:55 am

    Zoocasa only existed because they created a following by giving out daily ‘Sold’ data to anyone who signed up. They were one of the first on this, I used to get to the emails everyday.

    They leveraged the name and created a completely unrelated business model (and partnered with Rogers?). The brand was not as strong as they thought it was evidently.

  7. R

    at 1:17 pm

    Markham is as far from Leaside as Leaside is from Roncesvalle/High Park. Hope you don’t have any listings in the West end as surely you must have no idea what you are doing out there.

    If Getting What you Paid for is a thing with RE commission, what would I get more of paying more commission on $700,000 condo than a $500,000 one?

    If all agents are so unequal why is “standard” commission a thing. Surely an amazing Lawyer is going to cost more than one from the mall.

    If Full Service is really a thing, why do some listings get Pro-photos, virtual tours, videos, brochures that don’t look like they were designed in MS Word by the intern, etc., why others (from full service agents) get photos from a point and shoot and MLS copy they made up themselves?

    How would you decide what Realtor is best? Sales price over lowball listing price? Volume? Personal profit? Having good design taste?

    Let’s not talk commercials. The radio Realtor ads are the worst. Fear mongering, making the consumer sound like an idiot (“oh no, I sold my own house and got sued…I bought a place by a garbage dump because I’m so stupid and didn’t use an agent”)….. Come on. The slogan at the end says it all – “Helping you local Real Estate Agent” (or something like that) – not helping the consumer, or home buyer/seller, but the agent. Right.


    1. Ed

      at 4:16 pm

      You make an excellent point.
      Why as a seller am I expect to pay more to sell my $600,000 condo compared to my $500,000 condo. Theoretically the two condos could be in the same building, with the same floor plan and finishes but one might be on the 5th floor and the other on the 15th.
      Why am I expected to pay $5000 more to sell one of the condos?
      The model is broken. Zoocasa may be dead but don’t think for a minute that the status quo will continue.

  8. condodweller

    at 3:55 pm

    I’m surprised that they went out of business and I think there must have been some other reasons, legal threats may have had something to do with it, I wouldn’t know. I think the business model sounded reasonable except perhaps the 15% buyer’s agent rebate probably could have been higher which would have attracted more clients. I think it could be even higher given current prices. I have mentioned this before in a previous comment that I would love to know how many showings it takes on average for a buyer’s agent to make a sale….err…buy. IMHO at today’s average price even a 75% discount would leave more than fair compensation for the buyer’s agent. Now the seller’s agent theoretically has more work to do however given how fast places sell in Toronto even those commissions are way too high. Fortunately sellers have an option if they do their homework and are willing to put in a bit of work to eliminate the seller’s agent by getting a listing on MLS for a small cost which is the main driver of buyers. I have yet to meet an honest agent who will agree with this and admit it’s an option. I honestly don’t see what they are afraid of as I’m sure it’s a very small % of the seller pool who is willing/capable of doing it themselves and these people are not their target market as they will probably never hire an agent. David comes close in this article as he welcomes competition, which is what it really is. I think agents would have a much better image in the public’s eye if they came out and admitted, you know what, for that small % of sellers who can do it themselves go right ahead, there is nothing wrong with that and for the rest who need/want full service I’d be happy to help you out. Take Al Sinclair from Hot Property on CP24. He is a knowledgeable agent with a lot of experience, however I have no respect for him because every time a question comes up about doing it yourself he keeps the propaganda going by scare mongering about how your are going to get hurt and how much money you are leaving on the table and what a disservice you are doing to yourself by hiring “bad” agent who is willing to do it for less. I’m tired of hearing these agents being labeled as a “bottom feeder” among other things simply because they think they can get a larger share of the pie by charging a more reasonable and fair price for their services. 50% of something is more than 100% of nothing. To get back on topic I’m sure another Zoocasa will pop up if it hasn’t already.

    1. Jason H

      at 9:47 am

      ” I’m tired of hearing these agents being labeled as a “bottom feeder” among other things simply because they think they can get a larger share of the pie by charging a more reasonable and fair price for their services.”

      Exactly. Maybe they are going for volume which is another method of sales.

      When I used Zoocasa I had the #1 Real Estate Agent for for all of Canada in the GTA no less.

  9. amy

    at 4:55 pm

    i just purchased my first property. without an agent, and it was an estate sale. Number of issues: 0. I consider myself intelligent, and did my research..there was a definite learning curve, but i probably invested like 10hrs and really learned alot (by no means an expert tho). I know, I know the buyer doesnt pay the realtor..

    i have no idea if realtors are worth it or not. I guess it some markets i think they work very hard…with the current housing climate in toronto perhaps a different story. If you have decently kept house in a desirable neighbourhood, it’s gona sell no matter what.

    1. condodweller

      at 11:49 am

      @amy: You may think that you purchased without an agent however I suspect the seller’s agent double ended the deal and pocketed the buyer’s agent’s commission. In other words the seller still paid the full 5%. If you completed the offer by yourself and commission disclosure shows 0% then you did act as your own agent. However if the Seller’s agent provided you with the offer and helped you determine the offer price he/she most likely took the 2.5%. This raises an interesting question: can I as a non-agent claim the 2.5% commission if I write the offer and negotiate for myself? It’s a non issue as I was able to negotiate the price of my last place down enough when I didn’t use my own agent to account for the 2.5% however I suspect I can’t outright collect the 2.5% since I’m not a licensed agent. And realistically I wouldn’t want to either because then I’d have to pay income tax on it. So the discount works out better. But theoretically why shouldn’t I be able to get the commission if I am able to write the offer and negotiate myself?

      1. amy

        at 11:56 am

        the condo was for sale by owner as well. it was all done through comfree…honestly not sure if or how commission would factor in to a sale like that. we just looked at comparables offered what we thought was a fair price..negotiated a bit back and forth over the phone and then met and signed the papers together. i do think i was lucky and the sellers were very genuine ppl and were very open to make the deal work with me. my gut says this was the exception and not the norm for this type of deal..but really dont know.

        i see your point about collection your own commission…i imagine it usually works out that the price is negotiated to account for that cost.

  10. Noel

    at 5:18 pm

    Can’t wait until the Competition Bureau forces MLS to open up the comparables data to the public. MLS does not want this. Shouldn’t really be an issue if there is SO much value-add provided by agents. But it is. Funny that…

  11. joel

    at 9:21 pm

    To think that the industry will not change is naive. As you have mentioned there are going to be changes and consumers will decide what they want. To think that the public will continue to sell their 500K condos for 5% is crazy, as their is very little variance in floor models within one building. Once their is a site where buyers prefer to search that isn’t run buy real estate agents we will see more sales without them.
    Ebay and amazon have revolutionized the way we buy and sell things and it is only a matter of time before a new way of selling comes to real estate. There will always be brick and mortar stores as people want to try things on or need guidance There will also always be a need for RE agents, however I think that their market share will drop.

  12. Appraiser

    at 9:06 am

    TREB mid-month sales stats are out this morning.

    Greater Toronto Area REALTORS® reported 5,661 home sales through TREB’s MLS®
    System during the first two weeks of June 2015. A 15.7% increase compared to the same period in 2014.

    The average selling price for all transactions reported during the first 14 days of June was
    $650,732 – up 12 per cent in comparison to the first 14 days of June 2014.

    Hey what about that condo glut in the 416 that all the bears keep predicting? Let’s have a look, shall we:

    Mid-month condos sales in the 416 are up a whopping 23.5%, and prices are up 8.9%. Wow!

    1. amy

      at 10:20 am

      i am surprised that condo sales are up so much…when i was out lookng at places it felt like there was just so much supply and i felt that prices were going to drop…i still do, but hope to be proven wrong.

      i also agree with what joel said..that the industry will change.

  13. Appraiser

    at 3:13 pm

    @ amy: Speaking of supply, I’m glad you brought it up.

    Despite a 2% increase in new listings at mid-month relative to 2014, the sales to new listing ratio rose from 56% to 64%. Why? Because sales were up 15.7%!

    TREB inventory is at an all-time low. Without question, demand continues to outpace new supply, thus driving both sales and prices to record levels in the GTA.

    1. Jimbo

      at 3:37 pm

      The GT of real estate

  14. I like logic

    at 3:31 pm

    I would like to know the reader’s opinions as to when we are going to see RE agent’s commissions drop from the standard 5%.

    I mean, You do a great job David and I will always pay for a full service agent in future real estate transactions. However just like in the wealth management industry, technology/regulation/competition is eventually going bring that commission percentage down. When do you think that’s going to happen?

    1. condodweller

      at 4:35 pm

      As long as the market bears it. It’s not going to change until people vote with their feet. I don’t see the government intervening and can you picture an agent saying to their client “I am sorry Mr. & Mrs. Smith I don’t think $75,000.00 is a fair price to sell your house in three days. Let me rebate you $10,000.00 to make it a little more palatable”. Let me tell you a story….when I sold my first condo and my lawyer sent me the left over amount after everyone got their share I thought it was a little high according to my mental calcualtion. I called my agent to ensure he received his share. Do you know what he told me? He said yes, but you can give me the extra since I did such a great job for you……. And he was only half kidding….or not even half.

  15. Appraiser

    at 8:59 pm

    Here’a a message to Ben Rabidoux who was recently crying on twitter about others using “his charts” in their blogs without attribution.

    Here’s what I discovered. Rabidoux copies’s months of inventory chart for TREB each and every month without attribution. Of course the data comes straight from TREB’s monthly market watch report that Ben has no access to, but is a member.

    To wit: tweeted on June 3. posted on same day, BEFORE Rabidoux.

    I guess he figured no one would notice. Such high moral standards there Ben. BUSTED!!

    1. Joe Q.

      at 3:40 pm

      Appraiser — the TREB monthly market watch report is not restricted, it is available to everyone without a login. I have always been able to get to it by clicking a link on a press release and I am not a TREB member. 25-30 pages full of neighbourhood-based data on sales, listings, etc.

      Just tried with the May 2015 — no problem.

      He may be using the same dataset as but the graph is clearly not a cut-and-paste, the axes and years plotted are different.

  16. Julie

    at 11:45 pm

    I think that many/most agents are flexible re: commission. When we sold our last house, I interviewed 3 agents. All of them from full service brokerages, all of them top 5% agents. Not a single one quoted 5% when I asked about commission. It was a $2.5M house and perhaps agents are more flexible with higher prices, but still, nobody quoted 5%.

    1. Noel

      at 9:36 am

      But still, if your house would sell in 2 seconds with just an MLS listing for $2M because the price was SO good, why pay any commission for the first $2M? Unfortunately REBBA 2002, for some insane reason but most likely lobbying by the real estate industry, does not allow commission structures based on the difference between selling and listing price, ie in your case, say $2.6M and $2.0M. You have to pay the commission on the entire selling price. Makes ZERO sense at all. Some guy is apparently lobbying the government to have this changed, with a max cap of 2.5% to avoid charlatan real estate agents charging ridiculously high commissions on the difference such that they would get more than 2.5% on the selling price. Makes SO much sense.

  17. sharn kandola

    at 11:49 pm

    We are in the same industry as Zoocasa but we aren’t a brokerage. feeDuck ( was launched in January of this year and we’ve been connecting homeowners with professional real estate agents all across Ontario. We definitely have our naysayers but at the end of the day, agents and homeowners are making connections every day. The administrative fee we charge is nominal (only $170) for a lead and homeowners are ready to sell when they post on our site.

  18. duncan bray

    at 7:22 pm

    Re: Zoocasa closing shop: A Toronto lawyer, familiar to Toronto Real Estate Agents, is once again is the only one to profit from this foolish venture.

  19. Andrew

    at 7:47 pm

    MLS is what has and always will be the best resource to sell a home. If “top”agents say otherwise, it is because they have more to lose then you can imagine. Agents spend most of their time marketing themselves and never the home. What differentiates a “top” agent versus a middle of the road agent is there bank accounts.

    Many middle of the road Agents that might do 1 deal a month can spend way more time on you then those who sell themselves. just my two cents

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