VICTORIA — British Columbia’s government says it will introduce legislation in the spring aimed at giving homebuyers a chance to change their mind on the purchase of a home.

The so-called cooling-off period would allow purchasers to back out with no or diminished legal consequences.

Darlene Hyde, the chief executive officer of the B.C. Real Estate Association, said the decision to introduce legislation without consulting stakeholders first was “premature.”

“(The association) supports thoughtfully designed, properly vetted and evidence-based policy that protects consumers and enhances professionalism and transparency within the real estate sector,” she said in a statement, but added that consultation with affected groups should be a priority.

The B.C. Financial Services Authority will be consulting with those in the real estate industry and other experts on more ways to protect consumers, including a review of the blind-bidding system, which can significantly raise the price of purchase.

Blair Morrison, CEO of the financial services authority, said ensuring fair markets and promoting public confidence in B.C.’s real estate sector is a key priority.

“While blind bidding is a long-standing practice used throughout Canada, we do want to explore whether or not there are ways to enhance transparency in the transaction process,” Morrison said.

He added it was important to consider the interest of both sellers and buyers.

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the real estate market, first by dipping during the initial weeks of the pandemic then surging.

“Unit sales in B.C. reached an all-time high this past March, that’s the highest number of sales data since it started being collected 40 years ago,” she said during a news conference.

The minister said consumer protection consultation “needs to be done right.”

“These are just some initial but significant steps we’re taking to protect consumers,” she said.

Robinson admitted the measure would help protect buyers, but not necessarily help with housing affordability.

“We’re committed to making sure consumers have the opportunity to rethink their decision,” she said, adding that the B.C. Financial Services Authority will be exploring measures to better help homebuyers with protection and affordability.

Statistics release from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver this week said the composite benchmark price for all residential homes in Metro Vancouver was $1,199,400, up 14.7 per cent from October last year.

The province already has a cooling-off period in place for pre-construction condo sales.

— By Nick Wells in Vancouver.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2021.

The Canadian Press