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Is improved consumer protection in B.C.’s housing market on the horizon?

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Red-hot real estate market sparks calls for more government protection' Consumer Matters: Red-hot real estate market sparks calls for more government protection
Practices like 'blind bidding' and no-subject offers in B.C.'s red-hot real estate market are sparking calls for more government protection for home buyers. Global's Consumer Matters reporter Anne Drewa has the details – Jun 2, 2021

B.C.’s Minister of Finance says she’s looking at better consumer protection in the future when it comes to purchasing a home in the province.

“It’s one of the things we are looking at. I also have concerns about people buying a home without doing any inspections whatsoever and the due diligence that needs to go into making such a significant purchase,” B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson told Global News.

In an interview with Consumer Matters, Robinson says when it comes to home buying and making legislative changes the province is addressing a number of issues. “That is the blind bidding. That’s looking at home inspections, looking at cooling-off periods. All of these things go into making a good sound decision that I think is reasonable and when we don’t have a heated market we have the opportunity to do all of the above,” Robinson said.

Questionable practices like subject-free offers and blind bidding have left many prospective buyers feeling powerless.

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Recently, Kamloops resident Blaine Thompson experienced blind bidding when he made an offer on a home – a practice where homebuyers are kept in the dark of other competing offers. “It’s like playing roulette with people’s lives,” Thompson said. “It’s completely disheartening because you are throwing a random amount of money which often it can be an entire year’s salary thrown out there.”

Thompson says he would like to see greater transparency.

“I would be quite happy if they had a system where the bidding was still open. The bidders themselves were anonymous, but the prices are listed,” said Thompson.

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Should B.C. have a ‘cooling off’ period for home buying?' Consumer Matters: Should B.C. have a ‘cooling off’ period for home buying?
Consumer Matters: Should B.C. have a ‘cooling off’ period for home buying? – May 12, 2021

Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s City program says he’s concerned about the level of risk when engaging in practices like blind bidding, especially for young families.

“I think what bothers me about this practice is that what perhaps is the biggest purchase in the lives of most Canadians, you have more protections buying something on eBay than you have making this type of purchase,” Yan said.

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Read more: As subject-free offers rise in B.C.’s hot real estate market, experts call for cooling off period

Yan added the public needs to call for a level of accountability from the government to provide better protection for consumers. “If the existing leaders don’t have the political will then it’s a demand for new leadership or for leaders who do have the political will,” he said.

Vancouver realtor Steve Saretsky says there’s no easy fix to tackling practices like blind bidding. He says looking at a mandatory system similar to Ontario where the number of competing bids are disclosed may be an option.

“So it says Joe from Remax has submitted an offer and Steve from Sutton has submitted an offer and everyone can verify two offers have been registered. Now, you may not get the price or the terms, fair enough, but at least you can verify there are at least two offers on the property,” Saretsky explained.

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: The risks of subject free offers in a hot real estate market' Consumer Matters: The risks of subject free offers in a hot real estate market
Consumer Matters: The risks of subject free offers in a hot real estate market – May 11, 2021

Read more: Consumer Matters: The risks of subject free offers in a hot real estate market

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Consumer Matters asked Robinson if there was a timeline for bringing in more consumer protection.

“If we can move quickly we will. Some things that may be more stringent will take longer,” she said. “We are looking at all things because at the end of the day what we want is the consumer to have the space and the time and the knowledge to make a well-informed decision and to not get caught.”

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