Home-sellers in Ontario will soon have the option of allowing their real estate agents to share the contents of competing offers with the buyers bidding on their properties.

The current system of blind offers leads to bidding wars that some say contribute to soaring home prices in the Toronto region because buyers don’t know how much more they need to exceed the next highest offer.

The Ontario government is introducing new real estate regulations that will allow buyers to see competing offers but only if the home-seller chooses to go that route. Real estate agents, who have previously been prohibited from sharing the details of competing offers, would need permission from their seller clients to share the specifics.

The new open offer alternative that would begin next April is among a series of real estate regulations being announced by provincial Government and Consumer Affairs Minister Ross Romano on Tuesday as part of the Trust in Real Estate Act (TRESA) introduced in 2020. That legislation is the modernized version of the 2002 Real Estate Business Brokers Act.

The update includes a new Code of Ethics for real estate agents and more powers for the sector’s regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).

“These regulations also allow RECO to go after bad actors taking advantage of vulnerable Ontarians by emboldening their disciplinary processes and expanding the scope of their jurisdiction to encompass the entirety of TRESA,” said the minister in a statement provided to the Star.

“By giving RECO these powers, we’re streamlining and speeding up the process needed to resolve issues and ensuring real consequences for those acting in bad faith,” he said.

Simpler standardized real estate forms and more stringent requirements for real estate agents to disclose their role around issues such as when a buyer and seller are using the same brokerage will ease the home-buying process, said the statement.

It’s not clear how many home-sellers would use the new open offer option given that the traditional practice of keeping offers secret can benefit sellers when buyers unknowingly offer significantly more than the next highest bid for a home.

But under the new rules, sellers who elect to share details of competing offers would be allowed to disclose only some of the particulars. For example, they might share closing dates or financing conditions that others have offered, but not disclose the prices being offered.

Sellers and their agents would have to share the agreed upon “open” information among all the buyers who are offering on the property.

Calls have been growing for more transparency in the real estate process. In its budget earlier this month, the federal government said it was developing a national plan to eliminate the practice of blind bidding in real estate.

The industry has also been preparing for more open transactions with the Canadian Real Estate Association expected to pilot a feature on its site this summer that will track in real time when offers have been registered on a property.

Auctions, commonly used in Australia, have been discussed as one alternative to the existing blind offer process. But auctioneers say there’s no guarantee buyers won’t get carried away even if they can see competing offers. Auction fever can take over in the excitement of an open auction, two auctioneers recently told the Star.

There are more real estate regulations still to be decided, including whether auctioneers selling property will continue to be exempt from the RECO rules.

Tess Kalinowski is a Toronto-based reporter covering real estate for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @tesskalinowski