A recent REM column suggested that real estate should be unbundled in this age of the empowered consumer. Consumers want a new deal in the 21st century.

Many new business models rooted, blossomed, and became compost in the dot-com meltdown of last year ‑‑ real estate among them. In that fallout, real estate prices and volumes made headlines every month. So why and what should real estate unbundle?

There is no question that Canada is behind the unbundled and de‑regulated USA, but we don’t have to go that far to look at real-time unbundling and how it works for you –  right now! We have something recently unbundled in this country – your telephone. Go grab your phone bills – yes, bills – and see for yourself. Unbundling fact number one: someone else is asking for money too. If you are in the 45‑54 demographic, you remember one phone bill for your beige/black desk phone. You might also remember when $60 a month covered all the connecting you needed to do –  local and long distance and maybe an extension on the desk (not the one your buddy connected by the bedside). There were no features, nothing fancy and all the phone did was ring.

Consumers wanted choices -‑ didn’t we? With unbundled and de‑regulated phones, we can now buy a phone from anywhere, to do anything. We can have more than one phone now! Add long distance and mobile service to your unbundled services.

With all this unbundling and choice, what did consumers (you and me) do? We bought BUNDLES of stuff and features — air‑time and long distance in blocks, downloadable ring‑tones, features all bundled to work (and be priced) together, paid ahead whether you use it or not. Combine the long distance bundle with the unlimited Internet package and you can get 20 per cent off your paging bundle. ..hmmm.

Do consumers really want unbundled services? Did I mention the network fee that now appears on all your phone bills too? With unbundling, you keep adding new fees.

What’s in the Realtor bundle today?


Agent for the vendor


Agency – fiduciary duty

Real estate board membership

Full complete and accurate MLS or exclusive listing

Accurate and timely advertising, promotion and marketing

Competent and accurate comparison information

Competitive pricing guidance

Up-to-date offer clause drafting and preparation

Skilled and effective negotiations

Reliable brokerage and office support

Open house and other direct marketing methods

Feature sheets

Prepare, deliver, receive and witness documents

Client follow‑up and customer service

Errors and omissions insurance


Agent for the buyer


Agency – fiduciary duty

Real estate board membership

Buyer qualification and interpersonal skills

Understanding of mortgage financing, and impact on buyers’ needs and wants

Timely and accurate MLS property information

Inspection, previewing touring of properties

Competent and accurate comparison information

Offer strategy and preparation

Attend offer registration, presentation and negotiation

Prepare, deliver, receive and witness offers, waivers, amendments and notices

Attendance advise and review at building inspection results

Reliable brokerage and office support services

Client follow‑up and customer service

Errors and omissions insurance


What is optional in the 21st century? Can adding more services to the bundle make a difference? Buyers and sellers often use the Internet to research their choice of areas and home features. Buyers view and sometimes print just as many MLS listings as Realtors.

What do we unbundle? What can we repackage? Dual agency and the double-end commission bundle is one that Realtors want to keep. Bargaining both commissions, the fossil remnants of sub‑agency, still goes on in Ontario.

Recently it was announced, at the 5th Annual General Meeting of the Real Estate Council of Ontario, that more than 70 per cent of the claims paid out from the province‑wide errors and omissions insurance fund involved dual agency. In some parts of the U.S., dual agency is illegal, not just problematic for the consumers and a bonus to the broker.

The average claim paid was more than $10,000, according to Alan Silverstein, RECO director and chairman of the Insurance Committee. Perhaps U.S. Realtors found it was just too expensive or could not get insurance when acting for both parties was a possibility. More statistics will be studied from claim data.

It seems that adding Error and Omissions insurance has made a difference in the Realtor’s bundle. So unbundle or offer a NEW package? Stay tuned.


Richard Forster is a sales representative with Sutton Group Old Mill Realty Inc. and a member of the National Association of Real Estate Consultants. Email [email protected];  phone (416) 234-2424.


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