The Montreal and Quebec City real estate boards have served formal notice that they will leave CREA at the end of the year unless the national association makes major changes.
The boards have a number of demands, including:
– a review of CREA expenses
– a call for more a-la-carte services, saying that Quebec members use few of the tools the national association offers
– the ability to opt out of the national data distribution system.
The board is also concerned about recent changes to the national code of ethics, and it is opposed to Realtor.ca showing for-sale-by-owner properties through brokers who do not hold a licence in Quebec.
Patrick Juanéda, president of the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board (GMREB), says the board remains open to maintaining its CREA membership, “but we don’t want to go into 2014 without having settled the issue one way or the other.” Whatever happens, GMREB members will be consulted by vote as to whether or not to stay in CREA.
In a consultation with Montreal members last year, 28 per cent voted to stay in CREA, 40 per cent preferred to leave CREA immediately and 32 per cent decided to wait until after CREA’s spring 2013 AGM to see whether changes would be made.
“Unfortunately, it is clear that CREA has not delivered on its promises and progress on some dossiers has even declined,” Juanéda wrote in a letter to members. He says the GMREB Board of Directors is taking action based on the fact that 72 per cent of its close to 10,000 members rejected the status quo.
Juanéda says the FSBO listings of Quebec properties on Realtor.ca began to be seen last year and cites examples from isellmyhome.ca and DuProprio (ComFree). “It’s totally unacceptable that outside members who don’t have the right to practice in Quebec should have access (to Quebec). Such listings are illegal under Quebec law.”
Unlike the rest of Canada, it is difficult for Quebec FSBOs to pay a flat fee to a broker to list their homes on Realtor.ca because provincial law requires brokers to verify the accuracy of information on listings.
The Montreal board has “repeatedly asked” CREA to solve the problem and Quebec’s 12 real estate boards sent a joint request to CREA that proposed a link to the Quebec site Centris.ca from Realtor.ca for the display of properties in the province, Juanéda says.
However, Randall McCauley, vice-president of public and government relations at CREA, says Quebec’s licensing agency, the OACIQ, should be taking care of the matter. “CREA’s position has been that real estate isn’t governed by a national set of laws. If it’s illegal, the regulatory body (in Quebec) needs to do something about it. If I have a problem in my backyard, I don’t look at my neighbour and say ‘Can you fix my problem?’ It’s my backyard.”
Juanéda says CREA’s view that Quebec boards should complain about the matter to OACIQ is “illogical” and that any legal action undertaken by OACIQ could take years to settle.
The GMREB is also questioning regular increases in CREA dues and “some very debatable expenditures (relevance and cost of travel, training for the board of directors, cocktails, outings for spouses, grants and training for real estate boards, etc.).”
Responding to the dues issue, McCauley notes that a credit given to Montreal for advertising has resulted in a dues reduction of $72.50. He says CREA is moving in the direction of reducing dues, while the OACIQ and some Quebec boards have recently raised them. “It’s unfortunate that those facts don’t get a full hearing sometimes,” McCauley says.
Juanéda adds the GMREB is concerned the national data distribution system will result in members’ data being used by “interests outside of the industry.”
McCauley says that Quebec has one of the highest percentages of FSBOs in the country “so it’s probably best that we work together to make sure that we do a better job of providing products and services to our members. Noise like talking about separation does nothing for the person practicing real estate.”
The GMREB also voted against changes to the national code of ethics that were ratified last March, in the belief that the OACIQ is responsible for handling complaints against its members, while the board’s primary role is to promote and defend members’ interests.
Juanéda also decries the fact that GMREB’s demands are not addressed on the agenda for CREA’s special AGM in Vancouver on Oct. 29.
However, McCauley says, “CREA has a great history of compromise” when it comes to its relationship with Montreal and is ready to meet with the Montreal and Quebec City boards prior to the special AGM.
Juanéda turned down a previous meeting request due to a conflict but is proposing another date.
If the GMREB leaves CREA, “I don’t know if it will make any difference in my life as a broker,” says Mary Lamey, a broker with Century 21 Vision in Montreal. And if CREA continues to allow “back-door entry” of FSBOs or discount brokerages, “that’s just going to be a no-go as far as Quebec brokers are concerned,” she says.
The potential loss of access to Realtor.ca also does not concern Lamey, a former real estate reporter at The Gazette in Montreal. “We don’t really use Realtor.ca. We find the website interface to be really clunky. Our clients complain that it’s not really user-friendly.” Meanwhile, there has been a huge uptick in people using Centris.ca, she says.
In addition to the loss of Realtor.ca access, McCauley says the departure of Montreal and other Quebec boards would mean a loss of lobbying power and resources to deal with such upcoming issues as FINTRAC and anti-spam regulation.
He adds that if Quebec boards leave CREA, some brokers in the province may opt to join another board or form a new board to access CREA services. “If you want to stay in CREA, I think there are a number of options.”
But he remains optimistic it won’t come to that. “(Realtors) think anything can be overcome if people of good faith get together.” However, Juanéda maintains the disadvantages currently outweigh the benefits of membership in CREA.
In May of this year, two Quebec real estate boards rejoined CREA after quitting the national association at the beginning of the year. The 178-member Chambre immobilière de la Mauricie, based in Trois-Rivières, and the 102-member Chambre immobilière de Saint-Hyacinthe rejoined CREA after a four-month absence.
At that time, REM reported that the Mauricie board had received assurances from CREA that for-sale-by-owner properties would not be on Realtor.ca and that data would not be transmitted to outside companies.