'Bad things happening' in Ontario real estate market as homebuyer complaints surge


When Carla Vanderdeen-Fenech started shopping for a home in Hamilton in late 2020, she knew it would be competitive.

What she didn't expect was to live in a friend's basement for five months despite having made a healthy down payment on a $1.1 million house. Vanderdeen-Fenech contends her family wouldn't be in a basement if agents weren't breaking the rules to milk as much money out of buyers as possible.

The 40-year-old says she's coming forward with her experience to warn others as the pandemic-era housing market continues to intensify.

"If we weren't robbed of a home, somebody else was … this is why I said to my husband, 'We have to speak up, we have to file a complaint, because this is wrong,'" Vanderdeen-Fenech said.

Vanderdeen-Fenech filed a complaint to the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) earlier this year when she says a local listing agent broke the rules by sharing the price of a competing bid.

After her family sold their house in Mississauga in November, they stayed in their friend's basement looking for a home. They had their eye on a $1.1-million home on Hamilton Mountain — a brick-and-stone house with a fireplace, a two-car garage and lots of space for her three kids, two of whom have special needs.

Vanderdeen-Fenech and her husband offered $1,100,017 on the home in early February for a 9 a.m. deadline, she said in her RECO complaint. She said there were 23 other offers on the home, which was listed at roughly $900,000, and the listing agent needed 48 hours to choose one.

She says the listing agent called her realtor at 2 p.m., two hours after her offer expired, saying hers was "one of the top five, and we had the largest deposit." But there was a bid for $80,000 more, the listing agent said, so Vanderdeen-Fenech needed to do better.

Vanderdeen-Fenech shared her story on the condition that CBC News didn't name the agent, because she said she didn't want to ruin his career.

She says the listing agent encouraged her to make a higher bid because he'd hoped the competing bidders would use his son as their buying agent. But the competing bidders used someone else instead.

"When they're disclosing information they shouldn't be, someone is getting robbed of a home," Vanderdeen-Fenech said.

"If he had an offer $80,000 more than ours at 9 a.m., when all offers were presented, why didn't he take it? Why is he calling us five hours later?"