By Jim Adair
The Ontario Real Estate Association’s five-year strategic plan, which includes beefing up the image of Realtors, creating strong government lobbying efforts and working as an advocate for homeowners, was revealed recently in a livestreamed event.
Featuring OREA president Ettore Cardarelli and CEO Tim Hudak, the event was designed to show members and the public that OREA is taking the gloves off when it comes to dealing with government policies and with the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO).
“OREA will be a RECO watchdog,” said Hudak. “We will push our provincial regulator to get tougher on bad actors who erode the public’s trust while they engage in questionable or unethical practices.”
Cardarelli added, “We need to raise the bar on professional standards. We need to make it harder to get into the profession but easier to get kicked out.”
Asked if pushing RECO won’t create conflict for the association, Cardarelli said that RECO officials pledged to work with OREA on a variety of issues, including updates to REBBA, the provincial act that regulates the industry. But he said the association isn’t happy when regulators and politicians only respond to issues after there has been negative attention in the media.
He says it’s OREA’s job to advocate changes to industry regulations. “As an individual registrant, I am not comfortable personally with RECO using my membership money to become an advocate,” Cardarelli said. “I don’t think it’s their role. I think their role is to be the regulator and enforce those regulations.”
Hudak said, “I think a lot of Realtors want to know where all the dues revenue goes. Dues have increased, but has it actually gone to better enforcement or is it just going to administration?”
OREA, which for years provided education licensing courses for the real estate industry, was forced to make changes when RECO chose a new provider.
“In addition, OREA and its members face both external challenges (market conditions, regulatory obstacles) and internal ones (perception of low professional standards, lack of strategic direction). For these reasons, the board and senior staff decided OREA had to change,” says the strategic plan, which can be downloaded here.
Among the goals of the plan is to “figure out who does what” to avoid duplication of services between the local, provincial and national real estate associations. In B.C. and
Saskatchewan, talks to merge real estate boards under one organization are ongoing. There are currently 39 real estate boards in Ontario.
Cardarelli said during the livestream event, “We believe that technological disruptions currently pose the biggest risk to the livelihood of Realtors.” The strategic plan includes examining how other jurisdictions are handling change and attempting to mitigate risk, “with a particular focus on how consumers are being empowered through technology”. The plan will then come up with a strategy to tackle those challenges.
The association is also making changes to its governance and staffing. Hudak says it has already cut more than $1.5 million in annual expenditures. The plan says OREA will “advance Realtor’s interests through a smaller, more focused senior management team including our new CEO, by making advocacy, not education, paramount.”
OREA says it is also looking at “relocating to a more strategic and affordable location”.