It’s funny – I recently visited a home for sale, and I’m sure the square footage looked somewhat smaller than the information contained in the listing. Aren’t listings supposed to be accurate? (Part One)
The short answer to your question is yes. Real estate salespeople, brokers and brokerages have an obligation to provide accurate information in any advertising or listing they produce. A seller’s representative is expected to verify any claims their client or customer makes about a property, and if a claim can’t be confirmed, it should be excluded from the listing altogether. We also expect buyer representatives to exercise care and diligence in confirming the accuracy of the statements or figures listed and to fix any mistakes in listings as soon as they come to their attention.
The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) regulates the real estate brokerage industry and the conduct of real estate salespersons and brokers. Part of its job involves enforcing a Code of Ethics (Code) that prohibits brokerages and their employees from running false or misleading ads, among other things.
You may submit a complaint to RECO if you believe the listing was untruthful. That said, some statements are really just puffery: a term used to describe claims that are clearly intended to be an exaggeration (for example, a real estate salesperson who says he is the “best in the universe”). Puffery aside, errors and false statements in listings can happen when a seller reuses information contained in an old listing when the home was previously listed, estimates the square footage of their property without doing a thorough measurement, or misrepresents some of the features in their home.
My colleagues at RECO have heard about townhouses and link houses that were described as detached properties; property taxes that were incorrectly stated; shared driveways that were not identified as such; and laminate flooring passed off as genuine hardwood.
It’s a good idea to work with a registered real estate salesperson when you’re looking to buy or sell a home, and to possibly exercise some caution if you decide to do business with a buyer or seller who is not a client or customer of a brokerage, because RECO does not have authority over buyers and sellers. Salespeople and brokers know that they may face discipline from RECO – and potentially expose themselves and others to the threat of legal action – if they fail to perform appropriate due diligence or to conduct themselves with honesty and integrity.
I’m glad you’re conducting your own due diligence and asking questions. Remember that while a listing may provide a good starting point for buying the home that’s right for you, it should always be used in combination with other sources of information to form a complete picture of a property.
If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.