More MLS Musings!

MLS Musings!

5 minute read

May 15, 2020

A friend of mine from another brokerage told me an interesting story this week, one that is all the more insane when you consider this regular feature on TRB that we call “MLS Musings.”

About seven or eight years ago, as he tells it, he received a complaint from the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) over a marketing piece he had sent out, where he simply informed prospective home owners that they have a choice between better and worse agents.

He couldn’t remember the exact verbiage he used, but something to the effect of, “All agents are not created equal; you deserve the best agent to represent you in the sale of your home.”

Pretty mild, right?

Well, somebody complained.  Four people, in fact.

So RECO had to investigate the claim, and they charged him with “unprofessional conduct.”

The complaint read that this was making the entire industry look bad, by suggesting that there are both good and bad agents out there.

Imagine that?

Imagine both good and bad restaurants.

Imagine both good and bad auto body shops.

Imagine both good and bad massage therapists.

Imagine an MLB outfielder who hits 45 homeruns and bats .330, versus another outfielder who hits 2 homeruns all season long, and bats a meager .220 on the year.

My friend was forced to defend this complaint, so he simply went to MLS and spent a couple of hours on there, and voila!

He put together a book – an actual book with several hundred printed MLS listings, highlighting upside-down or blurry photos, spelling mistakes, instances of feet mixed up with meters so the rooms are apparently two-hundred feet wide, and on, and on, and on.  He basically did what I do here on “MLS Musings,” and used this to defend his RECO complaint.

RECO ended up dropping the complaint.  But it didn’t end there.

My friend traced the four barcodes on the four pieces of admail (submitted to RECO as evidence) back through Canada Post, and you’ll never believe what he found?  All four envelopes, representing four different complaints, came from the same address.

And in that address lives a well-known real estate agent; a competitor, if you will.

Can you imagine if RECO, or any other organized real estate body, decided that it was “unprofessional” to point out that there are better or worse real estate agents, or that highlighting the hysterically-terrible mistakes that agents make, on a daily basis, was something worthy of a fine?

“MLS Musings” would become a thing of the past.

Actually, pretty much everything I write on Toronto Realty Blog would be “unprofessional.”

The day that an organized real estate body decides that I can’t speak the truth and provide transparency in an industry that so desperately needs it is the day I quit selling real estate and run for the president or CEO of one of these organized bodies to make things right.

In the meantime, I figured we haven’t done “MLS Musings” in quite a while, what with the pandemic and all, so perhaps we could all use a distraction and a laugh?

Let’s start with one of my favourite topics: staging.

We all know what “virtual staging” is, right?

Here’s a recent example where a listing agent thought to provide both the empty room, as well as the virtually-staged space:

Same photo, two different looks.

Kudos to the agent for adding “VIRTUALLY STAGED” in the bottom left-hand corner of the second photo.

Here’s another example:

Virtual staging has dramatically increased in the past two months due to the COVID pandemic, since many stagers, mine included, closed up shop.

Faced with selling vacant condos that are hard to photograph and market, many agents have gone virtual.

I don’t love virtual staging.  I would rather spend the money on actual staging, since it looks better in photos, and doesn’t leave the buyer with immediate disappointment upon entering an empty condo.

Having said that, I have absolutely, positively, no clue what this is:


Come again?

This looks like drawings of furniture.  Like, actual pencil-drawings.


I’m not kidding, folks.  These photos are from an active MLS listing.  Somebody out there thought that this would look………….good?

I’m a big proponent of a little thing called “preparation.”  It’s kind of important when you’re trusted with selling somebody’s largest asset in one of the most complicated real estate markets in the world.

But maybe, just maybe, there are times when you take a property to market without photos.  I would never do this, but I applaud this listing agent for being honest:

Like I said, at least he’s honest, right?

“Professional Pictures In Process,” which I think means “progress,” but you get the idea.

He even apologized in the listing!

So how long do you think it’ll take for those photos?

Well, let’s see how long the property has been listed….


52 days?

Damn, son!  This photographer’s lead time is off the charts!

My photographer takes 48 hours and at times, I think that’s a lot.

But this agent has been waiting 52 days?

Maybe Annie Leibovitz took the photos, and the wait will be worth it…

This needs no explanation:

Actually, wait, it does need an explanation.

What did they mean?

Like, “This condo is amazing, no BS.”

Or something like, “We’re open to offers, but no BS.”

I really want to know.

I got 98% in Grade 12 math, then 52% in OAC Calculus.

It’s a long story, and has little to do with math.

But even I can’t make sense of the price per square foot of this condo:

I wonder how showings are going?

Do you think there’s a lot of interest?  Do you think the owner is wondering why his condo isn’t getting any action?

This takes talent, seriously.

Being able to put a photo on MLS whereby you’ve not only captured your own reflection in the microwave door, but also the reflection of your client, who is trying her hardest to stand down the hall, and out of the way:

Is there any way this photo of a King West townhouse is undoctored?

When you were younger, did you ever tell your parents that when you grow up, you want to live in a rocket ship?

I did.

I also wanted to live in a tree-house, but when I actually set foot inside my friend Jeff’s tree-house for the first time, I realized the rocket ship was a better idea.

Well, if you have a little less than $8,000,000, you can live my childhood dream.

Tell me I’m wrong, but what shape do you see here?



3……2……1……Blast Off!

Last, but, oh, wow, not in any way in the least…

You know how I love to show you the “photo array” for some listings, right?

There are always different reasons.  A recent photo array showed the CN Tower three times, which I felt was unnecessary.  Sometimes, the photo array will feature twelve photos, of which eight are upside-down.

But this most recent one, I just don’t know what to say.

Have a look, and then look again.  Then a third time, and don’t be afraid to count…

Four photos of the outside of the house.  Four.  Not one, which is all that’s needed, or two, if you wanted to show the house from different angles, but four.

Six photos of the back of the house.  WHY?  One was more than enough, and two was absolute overkill.  But six?

Five photos of the nearby school.  I mean, including one photo of the school could, I suppose, add some value.  In addition to detailing the feeder school for this house in the MLS listing (assuming it’s a good school), a single photo might make sense.  You often see agents include a photo of the boardwalk for a house in The Beach, or maybe a photo of Serena Gundy Park for a house in North Leaside.  But five photos of the school?

Five photos of the nearby park.  And two are of the same goddam sign!  Look really, really closely and you’ll see that these were taken on different days; one with a blue sky, and one with a cloudy sky.  Same story for the two photos of that large tree with no leaves.

What in the world is this listing all about?

Honestly, I don’t give out awards like this lightly, but I have to think this is one of the top two or three weirdest photo arrays I have EVER seen.

Have a fantastic long weekend, everybody!

Surely this is not the May-2-4 weekend we all thought we’d have, back at the start of the year.  But eight weeks into this stay-at-home order, I think the reality has sunk in for most of us.  This is our new normal, and as we slowly climb out of this, we’ll all be more grateful for what we have.

So whatever you’re doing this weekend, and wherever you’re doing it, enjoy!

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. Chris

    at 8:27 am

    David, on that last photo array, I think they’ve used the same photos twice, but with digitally altered clouds?

    Look at the picture 3rd row first on the left, and bottom row first on the left and third. The clouds in all three photos appear identical – all have that same grouping of four clouds with a small hole between them.

    Are digitally altered clouds a thing now? Because seems unlikely they’d have the exact same cloud pattern for three different photos.

    1. JL

      at 9:55 am

      You’re right! They just swapped in the same blue sky to all the original photos (probably to make things look “brighter”), but then ended up posting both the original and edited versions (inadvertently, one would hope). They also removed a tree branch from the school photo.

      1. Chris

        at 10:37 am

        Good point, I missed the removed branch. But you’re right, each of the pairs of photos seem to be the exact same photo – same angle and everything, just with the cloud edited. I didn’t know this was a thing!

    2. Alex

      at 10:26 am

      The house was going to sell well over asking and there was an error on the administrators side when loading the listing. By the time it was going to get fixed, the home sold for $313,100 over asking – literally in hours.

      1. Chris

        at 10:36 am

        So digitally altering the clouds resulted in a sale over asking?

        1. Alex

          at 10:43 am

          Chris, of course not and that’s not what I’m saying. You can sit here and bash all you want but at the end of the day selling a house for a price that the client is thrilled with is all that matters.

          1. Chris

            at 10:45 am

            I was being sarcastic. I thought that would be pretty obvious.

            Where in my initial comment was I bashing? I was pointing out that the clouds appear to be digitally altered.

          2. Alex

            at 10:50 am

            Fair enough.

  2. Steve

    at 8:28 am

    1) That first example of virtual staging is perhaps the first time I’ve seen in done in a way that seems tolerable. Showing the empty room alongside the virtually staged version goes a long way versus just trying to pass it off as real.

    2) At least I know where in the rocket ship I’m going to put my grand piano so kudos to them for making that clear.

    1. condodweller

      at 12:56 pm

      Anytime a seller agent does something remotely perceivable as tricking the buyer is a major no no IMHO. I think showing before/after empty/virtual staging is an excellent idea. Buyers won’t be disappointed when they walk through the door and yet get a good idea of how the space can be used.

  3. Ed

    at 9:36 am

    Those drawings were beauty!

    1. Verbal Kint

      at 11:05 am

      I liked them. David is too quick to bash anything done differently from his Signature process as unacceptable. Maybe the marketing for that condo was aimed at customers a bit more sophisticated than David’s “Where’s Waldo?” crowd.

      1. condodweller

        at 12:59 pm

        Agreed, they remind me of pencil sketches of designs of clothes/cars. This example is done well and it could be a great hybrid between showing empty and virtual separately. You can still see the empty space while at the same time the sketches help imagine furniture placement.

  4. Jenn

    at 10:16 am

    David, how many square feet is the rocket ship condo? It looks like the entire floor of a building.

    1. David Fleming

      at 10:52 am

      @ Jenn

      It’s “only” 3,800 square feet.

      That’s $2,100 per square foot.

      If I had $8,000,000 to spend on a home, this is probably one of the last places I’d choose. I would much rather have a $4,000,000 house and keep $4M in the bank. I don’t understand the appeal here. This isn’t the Ritz Carlton. There’s no white glove service here.

    2. Not Harold

      at 10:55 am

      It is about half the floor… Huge place with crazy views but 10 York is not your super super prime building. It’s a total disaster in terms of road access except at 4 AM or during a pandemic. It’s a short walk to PwC, at least when the construction on York gets finished, but really not the kind of place you’d normally pick if you had $8MM to spend.

      Although there is past precedent of offshore money buying crazy penthouses in below average buildings. Qaddafi’s son had a condo in CityPlace seized after the revolution.

    3. Kyle

      at 5:08 pm

      For $8M, that balcony is really underwhelming.

  5. Alex

    at 10:21 am

    That last listing with the multiple photos of front of house, back of house and school, well the agents did something right because it sold for $313,100 over asking and had 45 booked showings on the first day. And before you say it was priced to low and that’s why they got that number – look at the recent comps in the area.
    Maybe weird or strange works sometimes?

    1. Chris

      at 10:40 am

      “And before you say it was priced to low and that’s why they got that number – look at the recent comps in the area.”


      In the past three months, semi-detached homes in the area have sold from a low of $760,500 to a high of $1,920,000.

      This house was listed for $599,900, and sold for $913,000. So, after looking at recent comps in the area, sure seems like it was priced low.

      1. Alex

        at 10:49 am

        Yes exactly my point Chris, were you inside this home? It needed a complete rehab and it was a great comp to the one on that sold for $760,500 and 348 Coxwell that sold for $770,800. So getting roughly $140,000 more is pretty darn good – altered clouds or not.

        1. Chris

          at 10:58 am

          No, I haven’t been in the house, but I figured based on the only exterior photos, and the listing touting “attention renovators” that it likely needed a lot of work.

          Without knowing much more about it, I’ll take your word that the sale price is pretty darn good.

          But if a pair of comps recently sold for $760-770k, wouldn’t listing this one for $599k be pricing low?

          1. Alex

            at 11:36 am

            Chris, you sound like an intelligent person so you know it was priced low to attract a bidding war. Maybe I should have reworded, the listing was priced low but sold for much more than the comparables so whatever the process it took to get there – it worked out in the end.

          2. Chris

            at 11:45 am

            Oh I have no doubt they priced it low to attract attention. Seems to have worked in this case.

            Or maybe it was those digitally altered clouds that did the trick!

            (I’m being sarcastic again)

    2. M

      at 12:03 pm

      David, that $15.88mm highlights one aspect of pricing that really irks me, the use of the # 8’s. I may be wrong, but by using the number 8 is it really going to convince a Chinese buyer to then consider the property? Just reeks of trying to suck up to foreign buyers and I find it distasteful.

      1. David Fleming

        at 12:53 pm

        @ M

        This is a typo. The condo was supposed to be priced at $1,588,000 but somebody added an extra digit, thus $15,880,000.

        That’s why I thought it’s a weeeee bit high for 1,063 square feet! 🙂

        I agree that the 888 “strategy” is stupid. It’s done over and over. I would love to hear from a person of Asian descent on this, and whether or not they would be attracted to the 8’s.

        1. Not Harold

          at 10:06 am

          It’s not Asian descent – it’s specifically Chinese because of the homophones for 8 and 4. The only reason Japanese or Thai people care about 8s is the same reason as White people – to sell to Chinese.

          Using 8s (and not using 4s) cynically/strategically happens all the time in China and places with lots of Chinese (HK, Singapore…). Just as avoiding 13 happens here. Even if most people think it’s stupid/ a waste of time it can still be a good idea since it’s such a low cost thing to try.

          Plus when you’re listing, might as well go for 788,000 or 788,888 rather than 799,999. It makes no difference to the final price, it might get that one bit of extra instance, and it still gets you just under the bar on searches for property below 800k.

    3. David Fleming

      at 1:05 pm

      @ Alex & Chris

      I’ll chime in here: the agents did an amazing job, because the price was out of this world! We’re talking February-values here.

      1. Appraiser

        at 1:52 pm

        Forty-five showings?!

        February values already?!

        Demand in T.O. is off the charts.

        1. Chris

          at 2:23 pm

          How odd – usually you dismiss single data points as “anecdata!”.

          Yet, in this instance, you’ve happily extrapolated one sale into market-wide demand being “off the charts”.

          I wonder what spurred this change? Would you feel the same if I cherry-picked one sale and extrapolated it to the entire market? How ’bout 69 Holyrood Ave.? Or would that be condemned as “anecdata!”?

          1. Appraiser

            at 2:55 pm

            Is someone behind the curve.


          2. Chris

            at 2:58 pm

            Another non answer.


          3. Chris

            at 3:06 pm

            “Today alone I saw a condo buyer that could pay cash walk away during the 10 day review due to the economic climate, an anticipatory breach on a higher end condo with a 6% deposit unless there is a 15% price reduction and a development property suddenly on life support as the financing disappeared.” – Sigruper

            “Anecdata.” – Appraiser


      2. Alex

        at 4:16 pm

        Thanks David 😉

  6. jeanmarc

    at 10:52 am

    The condo you shown above with the $15M price obviously shows that the listing agent did not do their due diligence when posting. Maybe the listing agent needs a refresher of what the RECO rules are for misrepresentation?

    1. jeanmarc

      at 11:05 am

      RECO has a code of conduct and rules that must be adhered to as part of being registered salesperson/agent/broker. Unfortunately, the “general public” are usually not aware. I once had a very prominent agent list my home years ago and they stated it came with central vac. The buyer came back after closing asking where is it? My agent ended up having to pay the cost of a new central vac out of her own pocket due to her mistake.

  7. Libertarian

    at 1:59 pm

    David, since you always love to put in photos with the reflection of the photographer, what about a videographer?

    155 Hopedale, if the listing is still up.

  8. J G

    at 4:06 pm

    “Based on neighbourhoods with at least 10 sales in April, Zoocasa found median prices dropped over $100,000 in two neighbourhoods, between $50,000 to $100,000 in four neighbourhoods and by up to $50,000 in 7 neighbourhoods.”

    Not looking good for 416 condo. Like I said, the most important outcome from this pandemic is location is now less important (which is #1 reason people want 416 condo), this also means rent will be down. Will demand be there? Yes, but only for primary residence.

    1. Caprice

      at 4:28 pm

      From Scott Ingram:
      “Here’s a look at why that @zoocasaanalysis (shared on @TorontoStoreys @blogTO and others) about “OMG look at these big condo price drops” is BAD.”

      … and LG/JP:
      “”Scott’s analysis is always great, and here he breaks down why articles suggesting condo prices are down by as much as 18% in 2 months are highly misleading. These PR stunts confuse home buyers and sellers during an already stressful and confusing time”

      1. Reno Jeff

        at 4:53 pm

        I walked through this house before it was listed and live close by. Let’s put it this way, you could smell the house from the street. I know the owners were in a pinch because of personal health reasons. They were dreading putting it on the market and didn’t even want to let anyone in to see it. I called the realtor and he said he was bearly allowed inside. For everyone to be on here criticizing frame by frame picture without knowing anything about the situation shows 1) you have too much time on your hands and 2) you lack empathy. Its a global pandemic. Wow they only had a few picture. What would you like, photos of the stacks of magazines in the bedroom? Maybe they only wanted to show a few pics to entice people to check out inside. Maybe more photos would push people away. The owner got a much higher price than the recent comps. You should be making fun of the people who sold a few weeks earlier for a couple hundred grand less. They had lots of pics.

        Maybe before David starts trashing a listing you should look into the circumstance. Do you even call the agents or owners before hand? Not very classy especially when the owners are going through such a difficult time. Thats someone’s home and even if it is upside from a mental illness, doesn’t give you permission to be condescending to it.

        It was in rough shape. The agent had a very tough sell. Looks like it worked out.

        1. Alex

          at 6:07 pm

          Reno Jeff, I didn’t want to say to much because of the situation but well said!
          Obviously we hired a professional photographer but he didn’t feel comfortable taking interior photos nor would they have enhanced the listing. As mentioned before, the additional pics were an error on the input side by an administrator.
          And thank you for coming to the defense, it’s so easy to judge without knowing the whole story and sometimes it’s just better to sit back and know that everyone is happy with the outcome.
          Cheers Jeff!

    2. BHT

      at 4:37 pm

      this data is terrible and in no way an indicator of the current market.

      a sample size of 10 sales for the entire month of APRIL – are you kidding me? and ontop of that to use median sale price?

      my advice is wait for May/June numbers as sales have increased – then we can start to paint a picture

      1. BHT

        at 4:39 pm

        that being said, the goal is achieved for zoocasa – the clickbaity article achieved desired circulation and more site traffic. In turn, they will use registration info to sell leads to agents- their primary business model.

      2. J G

        at 5:01 pm

        What is your point? Everyone has their agenda. Realtors on this site will always paint a more rosy picture.

        But seriously, these days everyone can go on HouseSigma and see exactly what’s going on. How sales/prices are doing in specific building/area, house type, price range, etc.

        1. BHT

          at 5:44 pm

          I wouldn’t say there is a rosy picture – if any picture at all.

          my point being, I think we need more sales to determine a more accurate trend – be it good or bad for average pricing. And i do agree with you – stats can be made to sing or scream.

          I hope we can have that with May/June numbers and going forward, so we can use more complete data to draw conclusions.

  9. Appraiser

    at 8:04 pm

    The Stress Test Rate Drops Further

    “…Scotiabank trimmed its posted 5-year fixed rate to 4.94% on Saturday. That puts the mode average of the Big 6 Banks’ 5-year posted rates—and hence the minimum stress test rate—at 4.94%. Of note: This is the lowest the stress test rate has been since October 2017…”

  10. IanC

    at 12:52 pm

    Those staging pencil drawings brought me back nostalgic memories of the 1980’s music video from “Take On Me” by a-ha. I’ll need to find that zoom filter/background for my meetings now.

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