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Our "Phantom Listings" Are Based on Ghost Evidence

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The Canadian Real Estate Association has concerns with the Huffington Post article about "phantom listings" on MLS Systems of Real estate Boards and Associations, specifically, allegations made by a third party that duplicate listings inflate monthly sales figures and average prices, as well as the figures presented as evidence of this.

The consultant making these allegations, Ross Kay, publishes what he refers to as "audited" versions of CREA's monthly statistical reports to attract attention to the services he offers.

His reports purport to show that national sales activity as reported by CREA is currently being inflated. There is no information or methodology on how these reports have been compiled, but the numbers he cites are so inaccurate it cannot be considered credible analysis.

To begin with, of the nine numbers in his reports that are allegedly from CREA's two most recent monthly statistical releases, eight of them are incorrect (i.e. not in CREA's published releases).

Kay's "audited" sales numbers for July and August of this year are significantly lower than what CREA has published; however, he goes on to make year-over-year comparisons to numbers for July and August 2012 that are actually higher than those published by CREA.

The methodology by which sales this summer have been revised so much lower while sales last summer have been revised higher is, as far as we can tell, known only to him.

CREA is not aware of any major changes within the past year that would have resulted in these types of revisions to the data we receive from local real estate Boards and Associations across the country.

The evidence cited for his big downward revisions to the most recent two months of national sales data is the fact that a property can be posted to more than one MLS System. This is true - however Mr. Kay's conclusion that if a listing is posted on more than one MLS System, then it must therefore be counted as more than one sale is false.

The evidence used to support the claim of double-counting is an image from the REALTOR.ca website that shows some homes pictured twice. It is important to understand the difference between the REALTOR.ca website and a real estate board's MLS System. A real estate board's MLS System is the collaborative database used by a board's members to share and publicise their listings amongst themselves. REALTOR.ca is a consumer-facing marketing site operated by The Canadian Real Estate Association, and it is populated by listings submitted by local real estate boards from across the country.

The practice of posting listings to more than one MLS System is sometimes seen in areas where transactions commonly occur between buyers and sellers across the jurisdictional boundaries of local real estate Boards and Associations.

That said, it is hardly wide spread. A recent analysis shows duplicate listings account for less than 0.8 per cent of all the active listings on REALTOR.ca. Even if every single one of those listings sold in the month of August, and if hypothetically, and as Mr. Kay appears to allege, every single one of those sales was double counted, it still would not be enough to result in the kinds of revisions to national sales he has in his "report".

That said, there practices are in place to ensure that duplicate listings are not counted, and that sales are reported within the jurisdictional boundary of the local real estate Board or Association in which the property is located. CREA remains confident that the data provided to us by local real estate Boards and Associations across the country are accurate.

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