By Susan Doran

A welcome wind of change is gusting through the real estate industry thanks to a bylaw amendment that rattled the windows at CREA’s annual general meeting in Ottawa.

On April 16, prompted by an impactful coalition of five of Canada’s largest boards (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal), 310 delegates voted to provide boards with the option of direct membership to CREA, subject to a rigorous application process and one year’s notice.

“This change establishes a process for local boards to become direct CREA members without also having to belong to their provincial association should they and their members vote to do so,” states a joint release from the five boards.

“The boards support this change because it provides members and their local boards with choice. Choice in turn enhances accountability at all levels of organized real estate and helps to ensure that members receive services that are of value to them and the clients they serve.”

In a nutshell, the new amendment provides a mechanism for provincial association accountability that didn’t exist previously, when boards had no way of bailing out of these associations under any circumstances.

Why the need for this change? Boards across the country cite concerns around such issues as the need to cut operating costs and dues; streamline operations; revamp governance procedures and strategic planning; improve communications and transparency; eliminate service overlap with other associations such as CREA; boost professionalism; and better manage member tensions around perceived imbalances of influence between large and small member boards.

The new amendment “translates into more efficiency for organized real estate, less duplication of services, and more opportunity for industry innovation,” says Calgary Real Estate Board president Tom Westcott. “We need this kind of thinking to keep pace with a rapidly changing real estate environment.”

It’s a big win for members, says Toronto Real Estate Board president Tim Syrianos, who is confident it will greatly enhance the transparency and communication of provincial associations.

“All levels of our industry should be held accountable, the same way that Realtors and brokers hold local boards accountable every day,” says Syrianos. “In a free market, choice fosters accountability. Without a choice to belong, there is no accountability for provincial associations within the Three-way Agreement.”

The Three-way Agreement is the long-standing framework of governance between the three levels of organized real estate (local boards, the provincial/territorial associations and CREA), that until this recent change called for interconnected membership in all three tiers.

While largely supportive of the new, more flexible directive, the three levels of governance all still strongly endorse the Three-way Agreement’s original vision of solidarity.

David Reid
David Reid

“To be clear, this is not a vote to separate. This is a vote for choice,” says David Reid, president of the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), which voted in favour of the motion for direct membership in order to show support for its 38 member boards, likely to the surprise of some.

“We are not afraid of being held accountable. We are working hard to show people what we are doing and where we are at,” says Reid. “We really want to communicate and we know we’re getting better at it…. Now there is the choice for boards to opt out but we certainly don’t want anyone to.”

In a Twitter post on the day the motion passed, Reid noted that the five boards that are on the amendment indicated they in fact have no intention of leaving their provincial associations.

“We’re stronger together and we’re moving forward,” says Reid.

OREA, struggling with member board dissatisfaction and having lost its bid to continue providing Ontario real estate education after 2020, has been facing some whopping changes in the past year but appears to be stepping up to the plate.

“We’ve been putting a lot in place over the past 12 months,” says Reid. “Last year OREA undertook a strong strategic plan and made it a public document…We want to do fewer things, better.”

To that end, OREA is trimming expenses and doing its best to make government relations and advocacy paramount.  Regarding concerns around duplication of services, “we’re trying to stay in our lane,” Reid adds.

The association has also been “reaching out, meeting with individual boards face to face to look at their concerns,” he says.

Jim Stewart
Jim Stewart

The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) is also trying to be pro-active, having had its own share of issues and drama. Past-president Jim Stewart says the association has slashed member dues, is undergoing a restructuring of staff and office space, and has made changes to governance procedures.

It’s a concerted effort to avoid taking on too much (“mandate creep” as Stewart refers to the common problem). The association is “re-focused on providing the core services of advocacy, communication, economics, education and standard forms” to member boards while trying to build value and reduce cost, he says.

“We’re adapting to change,” says Stewart. “This has been building for a long time…We need to do a better job of collaborating with our member boards. It’s so critical that we rebuild trust, which is why we chose to support the motion. It shows that we are listening.”

Stewart says he found it encouraging to learn at the CREA meeting that in the U.S., a mechanism for boards to opt out of their state associations has been in place for years and has never once been utilized.

“We are so afraid about what would happen that we lost sight that the boards are not going anywhere – they just want the ability to,” says Stewart.

The shift to direct membership stimulated debate at the CREA meeting. Some real estate professionals felt that government legislation, regulators and third-party technology disrupters are more pressing threats to the industry. Others expressed concern over the economic impact if, despite current protestations to the contrary, large boards like Toronto or Vancouver vote in future to leave their provincial associations. And a few argued that a change to the Three-way Agreement, novel though it may be, is not an issue that really concerns the average salesperson, but rather directors.

But here’s the takeaway at present – whether it’s on your radar or not, the choice to opt out now exists, and that will make provincial associations more receptive than ever before to the concerns of their local boards.


  1. The INTEGRITY OF OUR DATA is being eroded.

    For example, when a TREB member lists a property in Burlington, they are not required to interboard the listing into the Ham-Burl Board. When the same property sells, all Ham-Burl members will not have sale information on that property when they prepare a CMA.

    This is happening in every areas of Ontario.

    I have approached OREA and they suggested talking to our Board. I further approached the Board and they seem to think that this situation cannot be rectified. I disagree.

    The strongest pillar of the industry is the COMPLETENESS OF IT’S DATA.

    We need to address this through our MLS system and/or merging of Boards.

  2. The reason associations do not merge is the members don’t want it. There is absolutely nothing preventing members to vote to merge. In some cases members are afraid of losing control and being dictated to by a larger entity. This fear seems to override the inherent potential efficiencies of a reduced number of associations. It is almost an impossible feat, just look at B.C.s recent valiant attempt wherein there were far fewer associations to keep happy vs Ontario. Additionally members should not confuse a “unified MLS system” with provincial data sharing. There is no need to merge associations to share data. Until recently different platforms restricted that possibility but now it is possible to translate data across different MLS platforms. Members just need to demand it.

  3. Don MacKay . BCREA had a diverse group of Officers and Directors that has undergone many changes over the past 16 Months, we will endeavour to make positive and meaningful changes and bring increase advocacy on behalf of the 23,000 REALTORS and 11 Boards that we represent. We are long past the “barrels” but rather draw from the experience of those who have served in other capacities.

  4. We pay a small fee to OREA and we get tremendous value.

    Thanks to OREA we have

    annual update of Standard Forms & Clauses
    OREA’s political lobbying for realtors rights
    member discounts on services
    Legal Forum

    These are some of the benefits we get for a small yearly fee.

    My board due which are 10X the amount of OREA dues and do not give me 10X the value.
    If we are really concerned about reducing waste and duplication of services, then we should be considering reducing number of boards and going to 1 MLS system.

  5. From the time In started my RE career (1983) I have never understood why Ontario does not have a unitized MLS System! Neither do my clients who assume that their new listing is also available for transferees or those who might be moving into their area.

    I have questioned OREA on many occasions on this topic to no avail (but not recently because I get tired hearing the same old, same old). They always told me that their mandate was Education AND that (back then) the technology was not available for a unitized system.

    I have also always been concerned that the free-for-all preliminary licensing process flooded the market with under-equipped new agents who all too often do not stay in the business long enough to evolve significant competence. This significant turnover I also blame for the aspect of real estate that I find objectionable – that real estate is “entertainment” and “game like”, not a calm profession helping people making significant and life altering decisions. OREA survived on the large financial gain of education courses from the constant flow of new agents (turnover, turnover), thus perpetuating an unstable workforce and inflationary tendencies.

    SO now that the technology is capable – why not – provide the service – a unitized Ontario wide MLS System – not to compete with CREA’s public site, BUT a fully professional system with all information that agents need to make appointments and produce offers. Note that the insurance industry and other professional bodies DO NOT share their member driven and paid for date base with the general public. It is their proprietary asset.

    In providing such a professional database tool complete with sold information, we would become a far better provincial presence.

    I see education and MLS as an intermingled scenario. Competent agents do not need to fear predation from out of area agents because they will always remain the most likely agent of choice for their own marketplace.

    However certain clients may have an overall game plan for their real estate holdings and often want the continuity of overview by their preferred agent. One other significant advantage of this continuity is likely to be the smoothing out of values throughout the province.

    Young people who cannot afford the epicenter of the larger municipalities or the not so attractive option of raising their young families in high rise condominiums, could move to a more affordable environment. This re-distribution of talented young people might also induce businesses to re-locate to more affordable areas and talent pools and equalize municipal economies.

    OREA also needs to contemplate creating and managing a province wide system of insurance and benefits mandatory for all agents. OREA would have significant buying power to get affordable rates if there was compliance. This would in turn provide agents with inducements to stay in the business while they raise their families. The stable influence of long term professional agents would also translate into increased competence in the RE industry.

    Compliance would also free us from the incessant emails from private suppliers, who in my experience do little better than what my local insurance agent can provide me with as a single insuree.

    When I was a new agent way, way back during my preliminary education phase, I was told to get my (then) Broker courses as soon as possible as my own continuing education program. These courses are now enfolded into the 2 year articling/provisional licencing component of the permanent licence. But I was also told that soon (1983) in Ontario we should be expecting a full community college level licensing program like what was then mandatory in BC. Do the math 2018 – 1983 = 35 years. Only now, after a lifetime of waiting, or maybe it only seems so to me, we are now embarking on this long waited for upping of the education ante.

    The relieving of OREA from providing education frees them up to provide us with real professional services like a province wide MLS system and a pension and benefit system.

    • Margo, you have highlighted numerous points that all of us as registrants should take very seriously if we are to get serious about enhancing professionalism in our industry. I encourage you to continue to put these ideas forward and keep spreading the word.

  6. As a past director, president… for my real estate board I believe that most members are totally unaware of what the Provincial Associations do for you. They are our voice to provincial government to stop legislations that can impact our industry. For example when the province wanted to allow all municipalities to charge a second land transfer tax as they do in Toronto they lobbied to prevent that. That could have impacted smaller areas in a huge manor where housing prices are much lower and most people can barely afford the one land transfer tax. They provide all our forms as real estate law is different from province to province. So does this mean that if a board opts out of their provincial association that they have to create their own forms? That could be costly and a bit confusing if using different forms from one area to another.

    I for one wish the mandatory education was still being done through OREA. This online manner provided by RECO is really useless to a certain extent because let’s face it, I’m sure many realtors have their assistant do it. When we had to take a day and attend you were assured that people were actually doing it and the discussions and interaction between participants facilitated a higher level of learning.

    Just a couple of thinks to think about if and when deciding whether to stay or leave. I mean does the small amount of money we pay OREA really going to change our lives?

  7. Why did OREA advertise for two NDP candidates in the upcoming provincial election in Ontario? Yes, the ads have been taken down, but the intent and the thought behind our association vetting one party over another?

    CREA and RECO are all we really need in London Ontario, plus of course, our local real estate board, LSTAR, which by the way, does a tremendous job and now with the Ontario Collective, OREA is a bureaucratic obsolete entity with it’s own mission.

    Ty Lacroix Broker of Record
    Sutton Group Envelope Real Estate Brokerage Inc

    • Ty:

      Have you ever been aware of any dictatorship that internally dissolved itself without outside pressure in the name of promoting more democratic values and better lives for the proletariat? Likewise, have you ever known of any bureaucracy that dissolved itself in the name of unleashing its taxpayers’ interests? The OREA-NDP promotion says it all re the latter question, methinks. Socialism is nothing more than a mercenary redistribution of wealth from the makers to the takers in pursuit of votes for the redistributors. As Margaret Thatcher once said “Socialism is great…until you run out of other peoples’ money”. All bureaucracies operate on other peoples’ money. Elected socialist bureaucrats are the takers who take from the makers and re-gift to their voter-takers. This is the primary definition of political bribery. No bureaucracy generates any monies by its own efforts re production of anything other than rules and regulations. All bureaucrats are in it for themselves whilst masquerading as their taxpayers protectors. No bureaucrat would trade places with their taxpayers, and that about says it all to my mind.

      There are always two mission statements adopted by all bureaucracies: the official public statement designed to impress the public with its altruistic mindset, and…the unofficial and internal wink-wink nudge-nudge inherent non-written mission statement designed to entrench the interests of the bureaucracy, and thus, the bureaucrats.

      Three layers of governance are acceptable for countries that oversee millions upon millions of taxpayers, but three layers currently overseeing a little over one hundred thousand Realtor-only taxpayers (maybe only fifty thousand—or less—when markets slow and/or tank)? Seriously? Sounds like a cushy make-work project for well-paid-without-stress bureaucrats to me. There is a good reason why most everyone would jump at the chance to snare a bureaucratic governance job. These cushy jobs appeal to the faint-of-heart who would not venture anything to generate, thus risk, anything on their own when a juicy, well-protected bureaucrat’s job could be had instead.

      The OREA-NDP cabal-in-waiting? Birds of a feather flock together.

  8. With 1 MLS system throughout Ontario, there will be a reduced need for the boards services.
    OREA is important for our industry, as they provide value to us.

  9. all associates are to pay and pay all dues with out any benefits it is like Canadian government pay and ask any question later as a member for 40 years it is not fare to any members what you are proposing what are we paying in are dues love to have your job and I’m very qualified good luck to all agents and owners of any real-estate corporations I owe my company sins 1978 it was a pleasure 10 years ago today it is not it have become burden to be owner of any real estate corporation with all liabilities we are face with good luck to all new owners and existing ones as well thanks vince

  10. I would like Oreo to Drop TREB and just have an Ontario and Canadian association. One system for all of Ontario. TREB is too fat and don’t listen or respond well to members. It is like dealing with city counsel. We really don’t need TREB.

  11. In addition to my previous comment, if we can reduce the number of boards to 3 in Ontario, and 1 MLS system throughout Ontario, hopefully costs to members can be reduced, and OREA can continue their important role.

  12. The raison d’être for BCREA is so that REBGV Past Presidents and Directors could keep their snouts in the pork barrel. Given the millions of membership’s money wasted, one would think they were civil servants or politicians, could be better spent providing services and education to the members instead of on pay, perks and honorariums for BCREA directors and staff. All the members can see by what has happened the business over the past couple of years what a great job they do. Shut BCREA down or withdraw REBGV and it will shut itself down.

  13. We need one MLS system in Ontario.

    In regards to Boards, Ontario should have only three boards.

    Southern Ontario
    Central North Ontario
    North Ontario

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