Why a listing agent won’t show you houses


Dear David,

We’re considering a move after ten years in the same neighborhood. When we see a For Sale sign go up on a house that looks interesting, we call the listing agent and ask them to take us through it. I’m surprised these agents haven’t offered to show us other houses for sale in the area. In fact, some have seemed downright reluctant when asked to set up a tour. What’s the deal with today’s agents? They certainly don’t seem as eager to do business as they were when we bought our current home. – SURPRISED

DEAR SURPRISED: You’re right. Today’s agents are unable to approach business the way they did previously, because of new rules within the industry. 

TRESA (Trust in Real Estate Services Act) is the new consumer protection legislation that governs real estate in Ontario. Effective December 2023, it changed several aspects of the industry, including the nature of the relationship between real estate agents and the buyers and sellers they work with.

Prior to TRESA, “client” and “customer” were two distinct agent relationships with vastly differing levels of service and protection. As an example, when a member of the public called an agent about a property or visited an open house, they were deemed a “customer”. The agent would answer their questions honestly, but beyond that, had a limited duty of care. It was a different story when a seller (or buyer) had a signed agreement with an agent and their brokerage. The contract made them a “client”, and bound the agent to a strict set of “fiduciary responsibilities”. The Realtor’s job was to protect their client above all else, obey their instructions, respect their confidentiality, and negotiate in their best interest.

When TRESA came into effect, it maintained the strict level of care for clients, but eliminated the “customer” relationship. A member of the public who does not have a written agreement with an agent is now considered to be a “self-represented party”. Without a signed contract, an agent cannot provide them with services, opinions or advice.

Because of TRESA, agents can only work for the benefit of their clients. The listing agents you are contacting can show you their listing and give you factual information about the house, as it will benefit their sellers. They cannot show you homes that other agents have listed. In those cases, they do not have a client relationship with you or the homeowners.

When you sign a Buyers Agreement with an agent, the landscape changes. You are now a “client”. Your agent has a fiduciary duty to represent and protect you, and can show you properties that other agents have listed, in accordance with TRESA regulations. 

PRO TIP: Start your home buying journey on the right foot by hiring a real estate agent. Entering into a client relationship will afford you professional advice, confidentiality, and protection from conflict of interest. When it comes to your largest purchase, you need an experienced professional in your corner. #Advice #AskDavid #TheNegotiator

David is a top-selling Broker in Kitchener-Waterloo Region. He works personally with you when selling or buying your home. Call or text today for your free home evaluation! 519-577-1212.