British Columbia

Still 'Sold': Realtor fined after asking buyer to hang sign for a year

A Richmond real estate agent has been fined for drawing up a contract forcing a buyer to hang her team leader's "Sold" sign up for a year after purchase.

Neighbours complained to Real Estate Council when sign was still there after 8 months

A Richmond, B.C., real estate agent has been fined $2,000 for drawing up a contract that forced a buyer to hang up her team's 'Sold' sign for a year. (David Horemans/CBC)

A Richmond real estate agent has been fined for drawing up a contract forcing a buyer to display her team leader's "Sold" sign for a year.

According to a decision posted on the Real Estate Council of B.C.'s website, neighbours complained when the sign was still hanging out front of the property eight months after the new owners moved in.

Xinwei (Sylvie) Zhao has been ordered to pay $2,000 and to prepare a statement demonstrating "what she has learned from this incident" and how it will guide her in the future.

Neighbours not 'Sold' on sign

According to a consent agreement, Zhao was working for a team run by former New Coast Realty agent Wendy Yang at the time of the sale of the Richmond home in August 2015. They represented the seller.

"Without the seller's consent or knowledge, and on the instructions of her team leader, [Zhao] informed the buyer's agent that the buyer's offer would only be presented to, and accepted by, the seller, if the buyer agreed to put a New Coast Realty Sold sign on the property for a period of one year from the possession date," the document said.

The house sold for $1,050,000.

Real estate agent Sylvie Zhao was fined for drawing up the contract. (Sylvie Zhao)

The consent order says that Zhao prepared an addendum to the buyer's contract putting the "Sold" sign arrangement into writing. Her managing broker told her it wasn't appropriate, but she put it in front of the buyer anyway.

"Irrespective of this being an improper way of documenting this agreement between her, [Wendy Yang] and the buyer, she obtained the signature of the buyer only on the addendum, despite it forming part of the contract," the order says.

The real estate council got involved the following winter.

"This matter came to the attention of the council Feb. 25, 2016, during its investigation into a telephone complaint to the council made by neighbours of the property about [Wendy Yang's] 'Sold' sign being left on the property for eight months," the consent order said.

"Neither the buyer nor the seller have made a complaint against Ms. Zhao or [Wendy Yang] regarding the sign agreement."

In addition to the $2,000 disciplinary fine, Zhao has also agreed to pay $1,500 in enforcement expenses and to accept a reprimand.

'It's just bizarre'

A 2014 article in online real estate industry magazine Real Estate Professional claims polling showed a majority of agents believe a sold sign should be removed immediately after closing. About a third said it shouldn't stay longer than a month after the deal is done.

Sylvia Sam, a Lower Mainland real estate agent who has served on the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, says the case is unusual.

She says the seller determines how long a sign should stay up — and whether or not it should be displayed in the first place. The buyer's Realtor must ask for permission to put their sign up.

But once the deal is closed and the title transferred, all sign decisions rest with the buyer.

"It's a very effective tool to get the property sold," she said. "Because if there isn't a sign, then they wouldn't have the idea that the house is available for them to consider."

But she said she could empathize with neighbours who might get irked by would-be home buyers checking out a property for a solid year after its sale.

"I don't understand this situation. It's just bizarre," she says. "You have all these people driving by and the sign says it's sold. And it's sold. And it's sold. What's going on here?"


Jason Proctor


Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.