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Ken LeBlanc, President and CEO, PropertyGuys.com Inc. and Lawrence Dale, President and CEO, Realtysellers Real Estate Inc. Daniel St Louis for The Globe and Mail

DANIEL ST. LOUIS/The Globe and Mail

The fight for real estate commissions is about to heat up, as two of the industry's biggest agitators join forces in an attempt to steal market share from the country's 100,000 real estate agents.

Propertyguys.com Inc. , a company that helps people sell their own homes, will merge with flat-fee brokerage Realtysellers Real Estate Inc. The deal that will make it easier for those who want to handle their own transactions get their properties on the popular Realtor.ca website, which provides the online listings for an estimated 90 per cent of the country's home sales.

The two companies decided to merge after the Competition Bureau and Canadian Real Estate Association changed the rules to allow flat-fee listings to appear on the Multiple Listing Service, if they are posted by a licensed brokerage. Previously, anyone who had a listing on the MLS had to employ an agent to handle every component of a transaction, whether they wanted those services or not, normally for a fee of 4 to 5 per cent of the sale price of a home. At an average price of $376,817 that means a commission of up to $18,840.

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While Propertyguys was able to establish partnerships with local brokerages to get their listings posted since the Competition Bureau settlement with CREA, they had to hand off a client if they wanted additional services that required a licensed real estate agent.

Unlike agents that charge commission for their work, Propertyguys charges an up-front fee, depending on the type of service a seller wants. They can choose to simply buy lawn signs or sign up for a larger marketing package. Now they'll also be able to buy services such as appraisals to help determine a selling price, or pay for help negotiating with potential buyers.

"This will allow us to navigate the market much more easily," said director of partnerships Walter Melanson. "As outsiders and non-registrants in the real estate industry, we needed some help from an insider who understands the regulatory frameworks and can help us do things right."

The merger will allow Propertyguys to post listings through Realtysellers, which is licensed in Ontario and expects to be licensed in other provinces soon. Propertyguys has about 7,500 for-sale-by-owner listings across the country right now.

Lawrence Dale, CEO of Realtysellers, is a Toronto lawyer who has battled the real-estate industry for the better part of a decade after his flat-fee service was shut down in 2001. His persistence is widely credited for the Competition Bureau's investigation that led to the easing of listing restrictions, and he vowed not to get back into the business until he could "offer customers a buffet of services rather than force them to eat a whole meal."

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