— We take our content seriously. This article was written by a real person at BREL.

exclusive listings in torontoOne of the things that doesn’t often get talked about in Toronto is the exclusive listing. Today, I’ll reveal the truth about what an exclusive listing is and share with you the good, the bad and the ugly.

But first, let’s start with a look at what an MLS is ….

Long, long ago (the 1800’s), real estate agents would gather together to share what properties they had for sale. The hope was that one of the other agents would have a buyer for their property, and they would offer to pay the other agent to facilitate a sale. It was the truest form of cooperation between competitors – you help me sell my listings, and I’ll help you sell yours.

As technology improved, so did the ability to share information and today, there are thousands of MLS’s across the world. In Toronto, the private database known as the MLS is shared by over 70,000 real estate agents. It works in much the same way as it did in the 1800’s – the listing agent posts a property and an offer of compensation to their competitors, in the hopes of making the sale happen. The MLS works: most properties in Toronto are advertised on the MLS and sold with the help of 2 agents – one who represents the Seller and one who represents the Buyer.

But there is another option to listing your home for sale on the MLS: it’s called an exclusive listing.

An exclusive listing is when a Seller enters into a listing agreement with a brokerage, but the listing does not appear on the MLS. The listing agent (and everyone in their brokerage) has the exclusive right to find the Buyer. Some people refer to exclusive listings as “pocket listings”.

There are times when listing a home for sale exclusively makes sense:

1 – Privacy – Some Sellers don’t want their neighbours to know their house is for sale. They may be getting divorced, they may be the President of a big corporation, and their resignation hasn’t been announced yet, or they may be famous. Yes, famous people need to sell their houses too, but they don’t necessarily want us all traipsing through their homes.

2 – Speed of the sale is more important than the price. Sometimes, the length of time it would take a home to be prepared, staged and marketed is too long, and a Seller has reasons to want to sell quickly. An exclusive listing can bypass the prep time – of course, this only works if the agent hired to sell the house exclusively already has potential buyers for the home.

3 – The Seller and their agent want to keep the attempted sale off MLS in case it doesn’t sell. When something is listed on the MLS, there’s always a record of it and it tells a story to future buyers. We sometimes see exclusive listings when a Seller is testing a price (usually a lot higher than what the comparables indicate the home is worth), when the Sellers have just bought the property and want to re-sell it right away or when the market is slow.

4 – The Seller and the agent want to pre-market a home while it’s getting ready for sale. Having a signed exclusive listing agreement allows the listing agent to pre-market a home online and with a Coming-Soon sign. It’s an opportunity to let Buyers know that a house is coming up for sale even though it isn’t ready to be shown yet. Important: as of January 1, 2024, homes must be listed on the MLS within 3 days of public marketing.

5 – The Seller wants to restrict showing access.  When a property is listed on the MLS, it must be available to be shown to prospective Buyers. Sellers who want to restrict access (for example, until renovations are complete, while they are away on vacation or while someone in the home is sick) can still have their property ‘for sale’ without daily visits from would-be Buyers.

But listing a home exclusively has some big downsides:

1 – True market value is really only determined when a home has been marketed and exposed to potential Buyers. Market value is the result of Buyers being exposed on the open market to a home and deciding what it’s worth. We often see Buyers bid up the price of an in-demand house in bidding wars, and we also see Buyers not making offers on homes they perceive as overpriced. There are dozens of examples every week in Toronto of homes that sell for more than what the comparable sales in the neighbourhood indicate those homes are worth. The highest price almost always comes as a result of exposing the property to as many Buyers as possible.  [Related: Supply and Demand and Why the Market is Smarter Than You]

2 – Often the biggest winner in an exclusive listing is the real estate agent. Exclusive listings reduce the chances of cooperation(where one agent represents the Buyer, and another represents the Seller). If the Buyer and Seller are represented by the same person, the agent stands to make a greater commission. But did the exclusive listing really bring in the highest price for the Seller?

3 – Who works for whom? Is the listing agent working for the Seller, the Buyer or both the Seller and the Buyer? Did the Seller get the highest price? Did the Buyer overpay? Are there things about the home and neighbourhood that an agent working for the Buyer (and not the Seller, or both) might discover? Trust me, this can get messy.

4- You can only publicly market the property for THREE days. As of Jan 1, 2024, homes that are listed for sale exclusively must be posted on the MLS within 3 days of any public marketing.

Except in very specific situations, it’s almost always beneficial to the Seller to list their home on the open market. Wondering what you should do in your situation? We’d be happy to discuss!



  1. An agent is asking me to sign both exclusive and MLS listing for selling. But the exclusive agreement to be signed first, then the MLS a couple of days later, is that the “norm’?

    • Melanie Piche says:

      It’s likely not because they want to sell it exclusivey – it’s probably to allow them to advertise it as ‘Coming Soon’ and to protect them during the time they are staging/photographing/preparing the marketing. We have our Sellers sign two agreements – the exclusive one while we prep/stage/advertise as ‘Coming Soon’, and the MLS one for when it hits MLS. TREB rules don’t allow Coming Soon advertising without an exclusive signed and the MLS listing agreement date has to match the date it goes on MLS.

      • Some selling agent uses this trick to attrack potential buyers for their own ti increase chances for double ending deal for max commission. NOT really interest for seller but selling agent self.

  2. We required two agents to sell our property as the house is own by two parties. We were told that only one firm can do the listing of the house, and there will be contrac between both agents re their responsibility and commision split. However we ( both sellers) were asked to sign the Listing Agreement with each agent seperetly…each of the agent represents different brokerage. Is this normal to sign 2 contracts, with each of the brokerages? Or should we be singing only one contrac?

    • Brendan Powell says:

      There is no requirement to have two different agents to sell your property just because there are two owners. However, while it is unusual to have two companies involved in a listing, it does occasionally happen. I would think in that case think it is a reasonable request for each brokerage to require a signed contract to formalize their relationship with you as the seller…otherwise what proof does anyone have that they are actually working for you?

  3. I just want to know if the both of the realtors (buying and selling side) are present when there is an appointment to view the property?
    And should the realtor who visit the buyer leave a business card as courtesy that he visited the place?
    Just curious. And who is responsible for any damages that might occur while viewing the property as at most viewing the realtor of the seller is not present?

    • Brendan Powell says:

      Typically it is only the buyer agent and their buyer client(s) who are present at a showing. Occasionally sellers request that their agent also be present but in our market and experience that is unusual and only happens with super luxury properties (sometimes because there are valuable items in the home.)
      Whether they leave a business card depends on the agent; traditionally that was a way of showing you came, but today it is less important, as we have better tracking of appointments and business cards in general are becoming obsolete. Usually there are instructions given to the showing agent whether to drop a card or not…but it’s not always followed (again, it’s kind of a throwback to the old way to doing business).

      Damage is rare but I think would depend on the situation. Your home insurance should cover damage but it’s good to confirm, and I would think a responsible visitor would pay if they broke something negligently…but you can’t really sell a house without letting people visit in person, so it’s part of the deal!
      Lastly, many homes have security cameras installed; if you are concerned about damage or behaviour, having cameras to watch who comes and how they behave is totally reasonable and might allay your fears.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *