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The rise of “ghosting” in real estate



  • Realtors in Canada are increasingly failing to show up to scheduled house showing appointments without notice.
  • The rise in “ghosting” has been attributed partly to the explosion of new agents with little experience or training.
  • Realtor education around professional standards is in need of reform, according to Toronto Regional Real Estate Board President Kevin Crigger.

There’s been a steady rise in the number of agents not turning up for scheduled house showing appointments in recent years. It’s accepted that realtors may have to cancel, even at the last minute. But failing to show up without letting the listing agent know is verboten, and many in the industry are fed up. 

“It’s incredibly unprofessional,” says Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) president Kevin Crigger. “It’s certainly a concern. Sellers go to a lot of trouble to prepare for a showing. It’s frustrating to them when no one shows up.” 

Sellers and renters tell stories of cleaning their home to white-glove standards, picking up every Cheerio, packing up the kids and pets and driving somewhere to sit in their SUV for much of the day during showings, only to discover later that no one even turned up. 


The rise of “ghosting”


To varying degrees, this type of ‘ghosting’ occurs coast to coast. Reportedly it tends to crop up more in large municipalities and hot markets. 

There are assorted potential causes, among them blatant entitlement and disrespect. The increasing facelessness of the industry is likely a factor, taking into account virtual transactions and swelling numbers of out-of-town agents. And there’s plain old bad planning. Realtors in one community accuse those in another of not knowing enough about the area to allow time to reach appointments punctually, or at all. 

Although realtors of any age can be at fault, the recent Canada-wide explosion of new agents has played a pivotal role. These entrants tend to have “less experience and less engagement,” particularly as their training during pandemic shutdowns was virtual, hands-off, and likely focused on deskwork more than on the practical aspects of the job, Crigger and others note. They haven’t yet learned showing etiquette, in other words. 


New agents lack experience and training


“One of the elements of licensing education should be a focus on these professional obligations,” states Crigger. New agents with no idea what to do in the field may land in a brokerage that doesn’t mentor them. Realtor education around professional standards is key both for fledging and established realtors and is in need of reform, in Crigger’s opinion. 

“We need to do more as an industry to educate our membership.” TRREB has taken its own steps to do this, he explains, adding, “It’s promising that over the last couple of years, we haven’t seen repeat offenders at professional standards” where no-shows are concerned. As the largest housing market in Canada, Toronto tends to be regarded as the wayward poster child of no-shows, perpetually blameworthy. 


Realtor education needs reform


In reality, “it’s a small fraction of agents” who no-show, says Crigger. “But that being said, there’s no excuse for it.” Realtors have an ethical and professional responsibility “to immediately advise the listing brokerage – who in turn will advise the seller – prior to the appointment if cancelling or late,” Crigger advises. 

“Pick up the phone or go on the (booking) app. You can notify people quickly. There are lots of options. There’s less excuse now than ever before not to do so.” Realtors need to report no-shows to their provincial regulator or local board, he stresses. “There are rules around this. It ties into professionalism. There is a range of options to deal with this, from a reprimand to fines and/or ordering the agent to take education courses.” 

Real estate blogger and Bosley-Toronto Realty Group broker David Fleming agrees that more agents should report this violation. To some realtors, a showing is “just a house,” he speculates. “They don’t recognize it’s someone’s home,” and how seriously no-shows can impact owners. Fleming is tired of agents’ excuses and believes that “unless stiff fines are imposed,” nothing is likely to change. 

“We need to work together. There’s no perfect solution.” Unfortunately, many realtors find that going the official route leads nowhere. A case in point may be the Ontario real estate regulator, which the provincial auditor general recently found often to be neither effective nor timely when dealing with complaints. 


A learning opportunity


Says Calgary realtor and coach Michael Montgomery, “I think it’s best to give the agent the benefit of the doubt and hope they make this a learning opportunity. I’d simply call the agent and let them know how this impacted the seller… If the issue persists with a given agent, our process in Alberta is to have the brokers discuss it before going to the regulator.” 

Kitchener, Ont. realtor David Schooley, a local newspaper columnist answering readers’ real estate questions, thinks that no-shows may be “one of those problems” amplified by the frustrations of the pandemic, harking back to when every showing had multiple bookings, each with only a 30-minute window. 

The protocols and market are different now, but the problem of no-shows hasn’t gone away and won’t without further education, Schooley feels. When you don’t cancel, you’re adding to the sellers’ stress and the listing agents’, he says. “Just cancel.”