By Christopher Seepe

Apologies in advance to non-Ontario readers, but maybe this provincial experience has a national ring to it.

A Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) news release summarized its recent survey: “… almost half (45 per cent) of first-time buyers and 41 per cent of homeowners wish they had done something differently during the transaction… A further 32 per cent of first-time homebuyers reported that they did not feel prepared and knowledgeable about the process, and only half of Ontario homeowners aged 18 to 34 felt they were prepared and knowledgeable about it.”

The next question might logically have been, “Did you use a Realtor?” If so, then this would be a testament to the service quality of those involved Realtors.

An August 23, 2012 Globe and Mail article says, “It is widely accepted that about 90 per cent of all home sales in Canada take place through the Multiple Listing Service… But that number is an educated guess, because there is no database that includes both houses sold by agents and those sold privately.”

RECO said in an email: “We didn’t ask (the 1,043) survey respondents to clarify whether they had worked with a registrant … The intention of the survey was to highlight that buying or selling a home is a complicated process and consumers may have regrets if they don’t educate themselves about the process.”

RECO’s news release also stated, “We encourage buyers and sellers alike to work with a registered real estate professional.” However, if most of the “regretful” buyers were using Realtors, how is RECO serving the public’s interest by recommending undertrained Realtors to consumers?

Who really failed these buyers? Given organized real estate’s dominant market position and the survey’s self-measured performance, it appears that real estate boards and their support/management organizations failed them.

RECO responded quickly with good intent but arguably flawed logic with its Fact or Fiction campaign, designed to empower consumers with more knowledge to make better decisions. But it was like doctors telling their patients to learn about remedies for their symptoms so the patient could decide whether the doctor knows what he’s talking about. There’s some sensibility to this, but then what is the doctor’s professional role in providing a guiding, advisory and informed service? Is RECO telling the public that they shouldn’t trust a Realtor’s professional advice? Assuredly, they didn’t mean to but it’s definitely a confusing message.

RECO published a whitepaper on its proposed vision for registration education and solicited input, which this writer did. An auto-reply stated, “Please note that there will be no formal replies issued to any specific comments.” Still, it’s also a good step in the right direction but it falls far short of any permanent, positive solution.

Organized real estate should be looking inwardly to find solutions to substantially improve the quality of service and expertise of Realtors before spending resources encouraging consumers to use Realtor services that aren’t up to the public’s expected standards.

The high turnover rate of Realtors must be stopped. The odds are currently very high that a member of the public is going to be serviced by an inexperienced Realtor, a statistic that appears to be borne out by the RECO survey.

A minimum two-year college or university program with a focus on a specialization in the second year would turn out solid, well-qualified apprentices. The program must embrace real-world tools that Realtors will use in their real-world jobs. A post-graduate course, after, say, at least three years of experience, would allow them to become a broker of record.

Applicants should perhaps be required to pass ethics and English competency tests before they can register. The language test is not prejudicial. Some words/concepts will be learned in real estate courses, but with 135 legislated acts to be aware of in Ontario, for example, there are many other words that are necessary to professionally function in real estate.

Realtors should academically prove their in-depth knowledge of each major property type before they’re licensed to sell it. It’s unrealistic to expect a Realtor to know everything necessary to fulfill their duty of care and skill in selling/buying a retail plaza, farm, oil refinery, condominium, estate home, manufacturing facility, office tower or the most potentially litigious property of all – the cottage.

The graduate has proven their academic mettle but they’re still hardly qualified to help a family make the most important financial decision in their lives or to assist an investor in making a major investment decision. A graduated license that begins with an apprenticeship is a critical success factor, just like it is for other professions and over 200 trades.

Brokerages mandated to invest in mentoring, not just tutoring, each registrant they take on would ensure that only the best would find jobs and become established in the industry.

More of the “same old” will not change the growing tsunami of Realtor irrelevancy that is crashing against Canadian real estate industry walls.


  1. Chris, your material on your website is one of the most prestigious in the industry, with excellent cross references.

    Since you are familiar with commercial, industrial, and investment real estate, you might find this bit of info interesting, per chance.

    Back in the 70’s, I had the opportunity of working on more than one interesting Urban Planning and Development educational ms, within which was described in some detail the reasons why the 400-series type highways all over the world were planned the way they were, and for why, necessarily so.

    Not the least of which, near-matching ‘X’ km (then mi) designated between the cloverleafs (who ever thought about that, driving along the 401?); and the allocated “must-have” space in width – to allow planes to land (can readers picture it?) – using the highway as an airstrip if required, in wartime. (What kind of prognostication was this?). World War II was long gone over.

    Likewise, large shopping mall design. Ever wonder why malls have those giant doorway openings and collapsible or telescopic door frames? To permit large ‘vehicles’ to come and go – in wartime: ambulances, and tanks can have access and easy egress. . . Check the “roof” – could it be an emergency helipad if required on short notice? Surely the answer is yes.

    Malls can become near instant hospitals if needed. Wonder how many people who work in giant malls know this bit of trivia, including the need for prescribed “anchor” tenant space on either end of a wing. (More admin and hospital space allotment.)

    This came to mind hearing the current news, about the Edmonton mall threats. It was difficult to imagine the foresight that today is everyday news, back in the 70’s.

    And then as I mentioned in another post: the relationships between water, rail, and highway interstitial fine tuned, merged, often seamless, design. Who thinks of these things driving along the Lakeshore, or the Queen?

    And going back to the 60’s, living in Toronto’s new east end communities where there still were “Bailey Bridges” along Lawrence Ave over giant valleys, (now several lanes of asphalt wide, with a different kind of bridge suspended over the same valley), and in the same time warp, we listened to NORAD air raid practice alerts sirens going off, while eating dinner. No one blinked. We knew we were safe. We lived in Canada.

    Do they teach this and such, in curriculum today?

    Carolyne L

  2. While I find it hard to accept that RECO released such a flawed survey that points fingers without any real direction there is certainly a minimum standard that needs to be met as far as educating purchasers about the transaction they are entering into.

    That being said, it seems like going to the car mechanic about an unfamiliar noise in the engine. He can describe everything in detail but I will not understand too much other than how the parts get swapped out and the repair bill is paid.

    Purchase contracts fill in the information about the terms and conditions of the purchase. It is, to a degree, up to the home buyer to understand what they are signing and also up to the broker to be certain that there is a minimum of understanding about the transaction and negotiation on the part of the purchaser. That’s what real estate professionals get paid for.

    You can speak of mentoring and training but it comes down to knowledge and communication. When the realtor and/or the purchaser is not answering or asking appropriate questions you will always have a high “unsatisfied” rate after the fact.

    • Robert
      I agree with your last paragraph, but, one first needs to possess the raw knowledge, the industry-related background experience and the inherent moral/ethical standards in order to know what questions to ask of a consumer/customer/client and thereafter how to answer questions before being able to effectively communicate what needs to be imparted to the other person(s). The cart must be put before the horse.
      A real live actual professional Realtor must possess ‘all’ of the institutionalized knowledge, experiential knowledge, personal attributes and communication talent (not to mention an above average I.Q. in concert with an above average E.Q.) ‘before’ he/she ever interacts singularly with his/her first potential client.
      Thirty thousand or so ‘properly’ licensed practitioners across Canada meeting these stringent requirements will, I believe, change the face of Organized Real Estate to the point where slick self-promotional ads expounding industry-wide professionalism will not be required. Shakespeare’s “Sir, thou dost protest too much!” line comes to mind. The other seventy-thousand can go flog vacums, carpet, refrigerators, cars and new homes for builders. In short, they can merrily flog manufacturers’ new products as all in-house sales persons should. That is what salespeople do, flog other peoples’ products. Professional Realtors, on the other hand, should provide a professional service that very few can properly provide. Ergo, the concept of professionalism encapsulates a pre-determined set of widely valued high standards of behaviour built upon conscionable attitudes.
      The desired ideal seems to fly in the face of upper echelon ORE’s inherent “SELL, SELL, SELL” deeply ingrained and institutionalized mentality. Such is the nature of commission-derived income, at all levels of the money pyramid.
      I believe that OREcrats don’t really care about the actual professionalism of their income providers; they only care about the ‘perception’ of said professionalism being successfully supplanted in the public’s mind. Thus, the expensive ads will continue to be trotted out to the exclusion of weeding out the chaff from the wheat. It’s easier that way. Spout a lie often enough and many will believe it. That is the true nature of the sales game. For too many registrants, selling real estate is just a high-stakes game to be played to win.

      • Brian, I agree with most of what you said and we can only hope that when RECO opens up the Ontario real estate education system to new providers we will see a rise in professionalism and institutionalized training that brings the best people to the table.
        My fear in this, however, will be a race to the bottom. More real estate training providers offering big dreams to potential agents that are looking for a fast payday, leading to more license stacking by brokerages that offer little other than a low-cost way for “agents” to hold onto their registration without the continued training and mentorship that provides continuing value to the entire transactional process.
        Top Producers will always be at the top because they understand the industry and the services required. The other 80% will struggle and, as you said, flog vacuums and such.
        If Jim Pattison were in real estate instead of cars and media we’d see a higher level of professionalism because the unsuccessful salesperson would be fired every month, and quickly understand that real estate isn’t for them as a career choice. (He would fire the bottom two salespeople in his car dealership every month.)

  3. Carolyne L, for the record and so that there’s no misunderstanding as to my own experience with TREB’s support staff, I agree 100% with your comments. I’ve had the same positive experiences with frontline support staff … quick return calls, straight answers, etc.

    My experience with middle-line technical development and finance staff has been a far less happy one. Technical development resists every suggestion of improvement or change, and when the argument is compelling, takes months to ‘review’ and years to implement.

    Finance staff are worse. I tried to bring forward to them a service that could save thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars in service fees. They wouldn’t even look at it.

    I received a form letter recently from TREB that said my license could be revoked if I didn’t immediately pay a $50 bill … one that I had specifically challenged and asked that it be escalated and reviewed. I received two responses: the first person was a manager who said they weren’t empowered to give any refunds no matter what the issue was. When I asked who was empowered, they said they didn’t know. The second was from Mr. Etherington, president, whose response I recorded further below but can be summarized as, “too bad, them’s the rules.” TREB will unconscionably threaten any member’s livelihood without considering the circumstances of any issue. It’s reprehensible, ESPECIALLY for a non-profit organization.
    Please note that the above is not a rant but based on real-life experiences. I can only believe that if I’ve experienced these many potentially career-threatening (directly or long-term industry-oriented) episodes myself, that there must be others members who just take it in the gut and say nothing.

    • cseepe. When words are used en group as a point of reference – eg in this case, TREB, with its multitudes of variable job descriptors, it is likely useful to the readers to have read your explanation and clarification. Good of you to break it down, cseepe.

      These sorts of things as you note, do happen. To wit: Even at the post office and Customs Canada – where no one knows who the big boss really is. Glad the big boss isn’t moi. Heads would roll. :)

      There’s something to be said for being an independent and working alone; me, myself and I make up the office trinity – lol. It’s enough that our clients are boss over the chief cook (pardon the pun) and bottle washer.

      Thinking on how to solve your TREB issue: it possibly is just a matter of getting to the right person. Might it help to ask John or Brenda to direct you to whom that person might be? Just a thought as it seems you need to protect your position formally.

      Carolyne L

    • If staff don’t have an answer, it should be up to the Executive Office to answer the question, or in lieu of, indicate who is responsible – simple.

  4. An August 23, 2012 Globe and Mail article says, “It is widely accepted that about 90 per cent of all home sales in Canada take place through the Multiple Listing Service… But that number is an educated guess, because there is no database that includes both houses sold by agents and those sold privately.”
    “…no database…” Really? Surely Ontario’s Land Title Office would be complete? In BC that figure is about 75 per cent after deducting MLS transactions from Land Title Office transactions (which include new home sales by builders, and FSBO’s).

    • I suppose G&M’s sentence might have more correctly stated that there’s no ‘available’ database that is currently accessible and has been paired up with the MLS to provide a complete picture. But even then, it still would not be 100% accurate since transfer of title only occurs if there is a change in the name of the owner. For example, if a company holds title to the property and the company shares are sold rather than the title to the property, then no record of the ‘sale’ would be captured by the LRO.
      And then you’d have to still have to convince the government as to what compelling benefit the government would get to want them to link the two databases.

  5. I’m afraid I don’t share PED’s opinion further below. I accept that TREB’s middle-line staff may not have any personal/hidden agenda but there’s no doubt in my mind that certain TREB executives are not only deaf to member input but put their own interests above those of the member base.
    The example that finally prompted me to action to start writing about these issues is TREB’s GeoWarehouse decision. I have yet to have anyone from TREB explain to me the rational behind this decision or demonstrate to me that TREB involved the member base at large in such critically-important decision. Until I can be shown otherwise (which no one at TREB was willing to do) I believe TREB put their salaries and operating expenses above the interests of the whole 40,000-ish member base.
    I recently wrote a detailed email to TREB about them charging a $50 penalty to members for expired listings. I proposed that they implement into the MLS a couple of reminder emails that can be automatically electronically generated to remind the listing owners that a listing (or condition, etc.) is about to expire BEFORE they “fine” absent-minded (read that as “busy” information-overloaded Realtors), after which the fee is warranted. Every relevant professional website in the world has this kind of convenience feature.
    Paul, Etherington, president of TREB replied, “Chris, This is a TREB rule, we all have to live by them. BTW your e-mail signature is not RECO compliant.
    I was grossly insulted by this terse, disrespectful and irrelevant “them’s the rules” reply.
    I attended a brokers of record meeting held by TREB this past Tuesday (Feb. 09/15). I was shocked and greatly offended again by Mr. Etherington’s belligerent and unwarranted outburst about a matter that he didn’t care to support (the specific matter of which I’m not at liberty to mention). He aired “dirty laundry”, if you will, that was totally irrelevant to the information required by the attendees to make an informed decision.
    Earlier, before the start of that same meeting, Mr. Etherington spoke at loud for anyone present to hear that an incentive, such as a gift card, should be handed out to attendees who arrived before a certain time at TREB meetings. I was sitting at a table nearby and suggested that they instead offer a discount on the entry price for early arrivals. He dismissed it out of hand saying that it would “create an accounting nightmare.” In my 40+ years of business experience, I’d willingly wager that gift cards would present as much or more accounting issues (and perhaps even more potential abuse) than a discounted entry price to a meeting. But it wasn’t so much his rationale for his decision but rather his condescending and dismissive manner in which I felt he delivered it.
    These three personal episodes have me convinced (again, it’s only my personal opinion) that if Mr. Etherington is going to use the same “strategies”, and negotiation tactics and style to represent the interests of Realtors before entities like the Competition Bureau and partner organizations, then TREB members are potentially in for a whole heap of trouble and pain.
    I registered and built a webpage that lists some of the simple and not-so-simple issues that TREB and other Realtor representative organizations could implement to improve member convenience, productivity and the public’s perception of Realtor professionalism.
    While my response above centres on Mr. Etherington, because his actions and manner affects us all, I have other firsthand TREB experiences that I’m happy to share with anyone, especially TREB, if they want to meet or start a genuine action plan for long overdue and much-needed change.

    • But I would like to be on the record as saying, as I have said before – the “support” team at TREB is above and beyond supportive, helpful; genuinely provide help – sometimes over and above their duty to do so.

      If you have ever dealt with major computer crashes right in the middle of doing important work, as has more than once happened to me, they are generous in coming to the rescue. If they were paid twice as much it wouldn’t be enough.

      As to how the base of operations works, I cannot speak – but I know that John D, and Brenda G always respond swiftly and provide exceptional direction when I’ve had to contact occasionally. And all are truly appreciated.

      Lots of complaints, much grumbling and carry on, legit or otherwise – many people never take time to acknowledge the good others do, and don’t often enough use the two most under used, important words in the English language: That would be, of course “Thank you.”

      Carolyne L

    • Chris,

      The essence of the problem that you have described here, is one that I’ve found to be present in the Real Estate Association to which I belong.

      One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that some people volunteer, but most don’t. I’m assuming that the TREB President receives a stipend for attending meetings, plus some expense money. As I read your comments here, it’s motivated me to again contemplate if some volunteers are predisposed towards having a tendency to be intolerant of being questioned or challenged, by those whom they have agreed to represent. Perhaps there is a social question here of: what is fair to expect of a volunteer, verses a full-salaried individual? For me, I perceived volunteering as an important job that I simply wasn’t financially remunerated for – it was usually a net expense.

      In our industry, having an official title that corresponds to an important position on a Board or Association can also have some potential monetary value, from a personal marketing perspective. Volunteering long term in a business reality such as ours, can potentially have a monetary value that wouldn’t exist for someone who coached little-league baseball, for example. In the business context of professional real estate, should we measure the genuine commitment of a volunteer by how long they’ve been kicking around, or by their willingness to answer good questions – particularly when an Association Bylaw may appear to have been contravened, or even tested?

      As part of our industry becoming smaller, and more professional, it should become more profitable for individual practitioners. I would favour paying Directors more than just stipends, for three reasons: it should cause volunteer Director’s to feel less like volunteers; it’s more equitable in a world where the majority won’t volunteer; and it may increase interest in participating. For example, if a Director attended all their meetings for a term they would receive a full credit for all their Board or Association fixed expenses. If their were six meetings scheduled over a twelve month period and they missed one, their credit would be reduced to 10/12th.’s, and so on.

      The fact of the matter is that some volunteers also enjoy the perk of: silence, but it is an insidious perk, at best. Our Regional Elections have typically involved a Nomination’s Committee hand-picking a candidate for the Association. But in any event, when we have competing candidates who come forward for a Regional Director’s vacant position, there is typically a motion raised at the conclusion of the Regional Election meeting voting (after the announcement of the winner), to destroy the ballots. As part of this process, the candidates haven’t been entitled to know how many votes they received, nor has the membership been asked to approve this, and furthermore, likely hasn’t considered this. I believe this system of voting may also be used by one of our local Yacht Clubs. I strongly favour upgrading our Association’s voting practices, or in lieu of this, having our Association agree on what we should buy for a decent boat.

  6. Chris Seepe’s style, in terms of responding to some of the submitter’s here is commendable, and garners respect for the writer. But beyond this, it’s an approach that shows good leadership, as it is more likely to create a useful consensus as a result of engaging the opinions of others.

  7. Regarding GTA Realtor’s comments, I sincerely appreciate the feedback and it was all great except that taking an ‘attitude position’ that nothing will change effectively empowers CORE to continue pursuing their own agendas with little regard for the Realtors they’re supposed to represent. If all people took that position in all issues of government, we’d be nothing more than sheep in a totalitarian regime.
    In a previous article I wrote about a parallel topic to this one, I mentioned The Serenity Prayer, a common name for an originally untitled prayer by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, is universally apropos to any kind of change, and equally valid for the Canadian real estate industry: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
    Yes, there’re things we can’t change but there’re so many more things that we can. An attitude position of resignation or indifference dooms us to mediocrity and a bureaucrat’s view of how the real estate industry should be run.
    Nothing can exist without order (which ever good-intentioned bureaucrat pursues) but nothing can evolve without chaos (the needed changes that the real world sees).

  8. Regarding Robert Ede’s and Hazel’s comments, I side with you on the 2-year university course, which would likely be too academic. I re-submit that colleges are generally much more pragmatic about preparing students for the real world. A 2-year college course with a third ‘co-op’ year might be the way to go. This ONLY prepares the student to become an apprentice Realtor. The brokerage and mentor is burdened with teaching the fundamentals and they don’t have the legal exposure of being correct in everything that is taught. The brokerage and Realtor mentor then picks up from the academic tutelage to teach hands-on real world sales techniques, time management, marketing, prospecting, etc. The student apprentices for a period of time and perhaps has to take a final exam after the apprenticeship term.

    • I’m not completely convinced that textbook education relative to practising in the real estate world, is the problem implicated here.

      You can study from textbooks and learn theory until the paper in the books turns moldy and gets filed away in your own personal archives.

      End product, end result: you are, yes, well-educated relative to real estate matters.

      You could write a helpful textbook to add to the existing volumes. You might even have acquired enough of such pandemic knowledge that you can even develop course material.

      But as I have previously noted as an analogy using as the comparison – studying piano: you can practically become a master musician. You can study theory and practice in your mind, even learning to write “music.”

      You can spend years studying, make your way to the top of the field, perhaps. But can you sit with the symphony, and “make music” with them, never having caressed the keys of a piano? Highly unlikely.

      It is no different in the real estate world. There are simply “professional students.” In theory they are experts and carry the degrees and accreditations to prove it.

      Any university would hire them to teach real estate related subject material.

      Would they be exceptional performers out in the field? Often not. Just like in the medical world of study where most have little or no training on the topic of foods and nutrition. Yet they prescribe vitamins. Does anyone see the conflictual processes?

      Our industry is no different. We can study forever, but until we put our feet in the water, so to speak, we will never learn to swim. Educate. Yes. Absolutely.

      But the missing link is one on one fieldwork. But learning from someone 25 years in the business doesn’t provide the answers either, if the mentor suffers from having done things wrong all those years. Watch who you buddy-up with that it isn’t someone who only really has one year’s experience, 25 times. The industry is full of those ones. That’s not a negative comment. It’s true. And if you think about it, you will know many who fall in that category.

      It’s not all about learning from a top producer who is always agent of the month, for whom the industry might just be about achieving that end any way he can, even by trampling people to death: clients and colleagues.

      As Brian often puts it: psychology plays a big role in determining who will or will not make it, much less make it big in this business.

      Carolyne L

  9. Great article Chris. But little will change.

    Transactions outside my “comfortable” area of minimum expertise,
    I refer to Realtors that have that know
    how. I sincerely wish this would be practised by my fellow brethren – Realtors
    handling commercial properties, land and investment properties “with a little
    help from their friends (read Manager) when they absolute nothing about them it
    is a disgrace!

    I think, really since the new Millennium there has been a
    steady downwards slide in the service provided, the knowledge required, the
    ability to even read or comprehend a contract. I love the phrase “English is a difficult language”! I
    have at times been truly shocked at what I have heard or seen since this time. We
    are now a dime a dozen. We used to ask who was at the bottom of the employment
    ladder. Well, I guess we now belong there. The majority of Realtors these days
    are only, repeat only, interested in making a quick buck, no matter how they do
    this. Professional expertise and knowledge and common honesty have gone out the

    Brokerages these days tend to be large and are there as a
    business. But if a Realtor is in a jam, there is always a Manager holding their
    hand. But does that Realtor learn from that mistake? Here is a question that
    needs to be asked of all Brokerages – How many Realtors attend your monthly
    Office meetings?

    As for the Boards and
    Associations, they are funded by dues and fees paid by us, but are run by staff
    and they (the staff) tend to follow their agenda instead of being told by the
    Realtors what should be happening. The way to effect change at these Boards and
    Associations comes from being elected/appointed to their governance or policy
    committees. This however is a huge hurdle as current policies/rules are a
    barrier as well as those making the decision as to who gets appointed to these
    committees. Also fair representation is non-existent! Time for action has come
    a long time ago. We need to start with a
    major change as to how committee members are appointed. As for Board Directors,
    there needs to be a term limit and allow as many candidates from one office to
    stand for election for a Director position. Current Directors are advised ahead
    of time to make their application thus beating out other same office members
    from even making an application. A lot is wrong with our industry.

    Great article. But as I said, little will change.

    • GTA Realtor, having served on several TREB committees I can honestly say that I’ve never been given the impression by TREB’s managerial staff that they follow their own agenda. I have the highest regard for their ability, knowledge and receptiveness to member input. Certainly they have ideas as they should and we reap the rewards for many of those, but the course a board ultimately takes is determined by the elected.

      We also cannot blame any crop of directors for being elected. It’s an open system and everyone is welcome to throw their hat in the ring, the problem as I see it is that most members don’t give a damn as evidenced by something like only 30% taking the time to vote. And let’s face it, too many don’t take notice of anything going on until they see their fees increase or a service changed or discontinued.

  10. I am the Broker of Record of a small Independent Brokerage and I do mentor my agents when they join my firm. I do not charge a desk fee.. and I offer a good commission split. The max number of agents that I have working in my office is 10. That is about all that a Broker can honestly supervise and make sure that people are treated special and that they don’t become a number. I find that the book smart realtor is not as likely to succeed as the one who goes out and works from the bottom up learning from my mentoring and help. If my agents succeed, I succeed. I am also a selling Broker so it works well to take the newer agents along with me and experience real life. A small independent brokerage is not for everyone but for those that enjoy being able to talk to the Broker anytime night or day and get assistance it is great. Wise Move Realty Inc. is located in Petawawa, Ontario and we have been in business and in the same location for 19 years.

  11. Very Good Mr Seepe! I believe ‘mandatory mentoring’ (tutelage of a broker/record chosen trainer) is the way to go. Great salespeople are not book-types – university-style education will only frost-off the best of the up and comers. I agree with your analysis and recommendations otherwise. Thank you rce

  12. Ethics, education, product knowledge – these are all things that more of would improve public perception of Realtors – that’s a no-brainer. As with most long-time practictioners, would love to see a higher ‘barrier to entry’ and fewer agents. This would have the two salient effects of a) straining out the riff-raff and b) making it more likely that those who do enter into the profession have a fighting chance of doing sufficient volume to make a living during their ‘formative’ years. It’s hard to argue that the more years of experience the ‘average’ agent has, the generally more professional service that is rendered by the industry as a whole. However, it shouldn’t be lost on anybody that ‘fewer’ agents while great for current licensees (like me), at lots of levels, craters the “Broker as Landlord” business model that is so prevalent in the modern sales environment. Back in the Pre-Cambrian when I was newly licensed, Brokers weren’t nearly so fixated on ‘Body-Count” but ‘Deal-Count’. One high-volume agent providing 60 ends a year was substantially more valuable than 60 part-timers doing 1 end per year. The brokerage had a direct financial partnership (as a split fee vs. desk fee broker) with the agent and had a vested interest in either improving or eliminating that agent. Therefore, the industry was more consistent in it’s approach because everyone was on the ‘same page’, financially. It was relatively ‘self-correcting’ in that it weeded out the weak for the above reasons.
    However, for many Brokerage models to survive they require fresh ‘cannon fodder’ to replace the fallen and pay ‘rent’. While this brokerage model prevails in Canadian Real Estate, I fear that education, regulation or whatever will fail to substantially improve professionalism and therefore – public perception.
    About the only ‘hope’ I see is staged licensing and mentoring. I cannot see the Broker of a 120 asgent firm doing it, so I suspect that only the attachment of new licensees to old ones has a realistic chance of generating truly competent new agents.

  13. Real Estate is a business, a big business. A business must be profitable to be successful. OREA, RECO and all the local boards function as non profit organizations. Brokerages on the other hand function to be profitable. This is where the problem arises. The quality of agents the brokerages hire is not the main criteria but rather what are their sales skills and the number of properties the agent has sold. This mentality is prevelent in all businesses in a capitalistic economy. Profit of a business will trump quality 99% of the time.

    • Good point Jim…BUT…if brokerages ideally going forward have to compete with other brokerages for only a small number of recent competent graduates per year (instead of the tumble weed-like overabundance of wide-eyed hoping-for-good-luck babes-in-the-woods minor league’rs) who are highly educated (both academically and industry related), well experienced in some kind of previous real estate related venture (other than simply as a commissioned sales person) who can also prove that they have an ethics-driven background ‘prior’ to being allowed into real estate transaction schooling/training, then that ball falls squarely in Organized Real Estate’s bureaucratic court of currently-fuzzy parameters. ORE needs to be forced to finally become the driving force to offer up properly qualified registrants in the first and only place.
      The quest for professionalism ‘must’ start from the top, and the only way that that is going to happen is if the top bureaucracies are knocked back on their collective ass by those who pay their comfy salaries…their actual silent and complacent bosses…the in-the-field registrants who care enough to do something about this mess that the salaried nine-to-fivers have no vested interest in effectively accomplishing. A new culture has to be established within the real estate transaction industry. The decades-old entrenched bureaucratic in-house status quo supporters need to be voted out by whatever means necessary in order for the industry performers who really do care about what they do for a living to avoid having their what-should-be-a-profession-but-which-is-not-a-profession undermined in the publics’ view to the point that government action kicks in. The media is ramping up its coverage of what ails ORE, as those who are paying attention full well know. It’s time to self heal, and the medicine must come from the professional-of-mind patients in this case.

      • Brian,
        I find it’s interesting that Ontario seems to be taking the lead regarding education enhancement – notwithstanding what has gone on in B.C.. I’ve noticed that TREB has one of the most credible systems, when it comes to how they handle internal elections. Do you suppose there is a correlation between the quality of TREB’s practices around the handling of their Regional elections etc. – perhaps having encouraged forward thinking new faces to run and get elected, and Ontario’s recent announcement concerning a desired new approach to educational standards? Conversely, what would your thoughts be on a Real Estate Association that feels there isn’t any need to provide candidates in a Regional Election with their vote totals, as it would relate to what such an Association hopes for the future, for its membership?

        • Hi Alan:
          I would be surprised if RECO took much advice from TREB regarding significantly increasing education/experience standards for new recruits. TREB, like any other stand-alone private entity dependant upon membership dues from mostly detached members for its very existence has at root one overriding major concern…self sustenance. TREB will only stretch itself out of its comfortable shape if it has to, and it is looking more like it is going to have to do just that. Internal rebellions from the proletariat I think are going to become the norm going forward.
          RECO should listen more to the comments of every-day registrants on the ground; that is where the action is happening. Entrenched TREBites simply filter what they hear before sending sanitized versions of reality out to the public and to RECO. That is the cultural nature of industry insiders with a self-professed image to protect. In a commission protective environment everyone is in it for himself/herself.
          In my opinion RECO should have two things, and two things only, in its sights, and they are these: 1) Severely limiting the number of newbie entrants onto the playing field via enforcing strict standards to be met prior to registration, and: 2) Increasing the number of registrants being permanently shown the door upon displayed proof of incompetence and/or malicious malpractice, not just by way of researching complaints from consumers, but by way of never-ending random spot checks/audits and follow-up calls designed to reach out to and find consumers (and registrants) who have had recent negative experiences with registrants which point to registrant-centric conflict-of-interest behind-the-scenes behaviour.
          Regarding your last question: Any organization that does not post election vote totals per candidate has something to hide. In this case, it might not want others to know how much support a candidate had garnered who pushed so-called ‘radical’, but nevertheless, common sense-based ideas that flew in the face of the status quo guardians…the election controlling elites. Democracy can be twisted into many and varied forms from on high my friend, and they will pass as democratic vehicles to the non-caring apathetics, who make up the vast majority of the system.

          • Brian,

            With regards to your last paragraph, I believe that you’re dead-on. I wonder though, if “…the election controlling elites.” feel they’re exempt from being perceived as such, as long as they remember to pin on a poppy, every Remembrance Day.

  14. Education, Education and more Education – it’s a simple fix. If you don’t pass the rigorous courses, you can’t be a Realtor. The would be Realtor should also know how difficult it is to stay successfully in this business and be aware of just how many drop out year one. I blame the competition bureau… they want to open up the industry to new “styles” (commission cutters) but this clearly created a load of unscrupulous sales people (over and above what was already here) looking to undercut the competition – and with less commission comes less service. Now you have Realtors questioning their business models and in an attempt to compete with the dollar store realtors, are giving cash backs, cutting commission and working for next to nothing right before they drop out of the business – leaving a trail of unprofessionalism in their wake. All this can be solved with longer and stronger Education. I’m tired of hearing newbie agents that can barely even speak English – it’s unfair to the consumer as well as to professional Realtors. It gives us all a bad name!

  15. Ron Stuart — thanks for taking the time to respond here. I too believe there’s a fundamental conflict of interest but for me its the structure of responsibility versus remuneration in CORE agencies.
    RECO’s mandate is to protect the public image. It has no responsibility to further registrants’/Realtors’ interests … but it is funded by Realtor fees. To me, that’s like jailhouse guards officially being paid by the convicts to make sure the convicts don’t escape.
    As Russ below, and many other Realtors have noted, the staff of TREB, OREA and RECO are all incentivized by volume of licensed registrants, not by quality of registrants. The more registrants, the more money they make, despite being non-profit agencies. I’ve said this many times … the needed changes will happen much more quickly when financial compensation is tied to the ‘proper’ performance objectives.
    Omer Quenneville — I don’t dispute RECO’s responsibility to educate the public. This is absolutely the right thing to do. The mixed message is that RECO is telling the public to use Realtors that RECO themselves appear to have determined aren’t meeting the public’s expectations of a Realtor’s duty of care and skill … because too many realtors (45%?) have not been properly educated and prepared to undertake real estate transactions. Whose responsibility is it to properly educate and prepare realtors? According to RECO’s survey, whoever is responsible is in large part responsible for failing the disappointed homebuyers. In Ontario, that’s RECO. However, I think OREA is front and centre to take the hit, and real estate boards have to reevaluate their role and re-invent themselves.

  16. The problem is that the real estate boards operate like fitness clubs. They want an endless amount of members to join their facility but they don’t care if they “workout” on a regular basis. It’s actually better if they don’t show up as they’re easier to manage. My 2 cents :)

  17. I personally think this is good to publish this information and I don’t see it as a mixed message. The public needs to know to demand more and RECO is doing its job by letting them know to expect more. Just last week my office did a presentation on qualifying first time buyers and I was asked to speak. And while I did focus on qualifying buyers, I also focused my talk on educating the buyer during the process on what to expect including mortgage financing, building inspection, lawyers role and a complete review of the Agreement of purchase and sale and buyer agency agreement. I am also a regular guest speaking on the topic to an organization that has requested me to speak repeatedly and directly to the public on this topic. The message is getting out for the public to expect more and demand more.

  18. Christopher, your article resonates with my recent reading of ‘Realtors behaving really badly,’ MoneySense Magazine, February/March 2015, page 62.

    For what it’s worth, here’s my response to MoneySense’s editor, ‘Alas, ’tis true! In twenty-plus years of real estate practice one has seen and heard of such shenanigans all too often. Although saddened and embarrassed by such behaviour, it comes as no surprise. Here’s why. The real estate brokerage industry has unwittingly created a structural conflict of interest in which it operates. On the one hand, an abundance of case law establishes that we are fiduciaries bound to place the client’s interests above all others, including our own. On the other, a deeply entrenched selling culture, fuelled by commission remuneration, can motivate and reward unseemly behaviour. Even the honest and ethical majority sometimes finds it difficult to ride two horses at once!’

    Ron Stuart, FRI

    • An unethical real estate practitioner can abuse either: a fee based or a commission based type of remuneration. In the case of a fee approach, a practitioner can bill out their time and other expenses, depending on what has been agreed to, in the listing contract. However, the commission based model, that I’m most familiar with, can involve a practitioner walking away from an expired listing, and only losing money out of their own pocket! In theory, the commission based type of remuneration should compel a real estate practitioner to be more honest with their opinion of a properties value, and this can be reinforced by a seller simply refusing to entertain any price drops, during the term of the listing.

  19. Hello Again—
    Ain’t NOTHING gonna change from the results of the time and money wasting surveys– Total baloney— Unless:
    1. RECO enforces the rules of REBBA —( this ain’t gonna happen ).
    Just look at the Convictions and Fines imposed in the past year or two.
    Guaranteed, RECO needs FEES . Yup, FEES pay the way of the Bureaucrats, so, Ya think they will take a chance to lower their own income ???
    2. Provincial Real Estate Boards operate on FEE paying members—- so, Ya think they are going to make it difficult to enter the Industry ?
    Just give ’em a title — ” Professional Realtor ”
    3. Because Real Estate is a Commission based Industry — Ya think the ” Professional Realtor ” really cares who buys what ,or , what a property sells for ???
    Lastly, those ” Hokey ” tv ads —– ?????

  20. Thank you Alan and Brian … Brian I’ll contact you.
    I see a lot of writing from concerned Realtors/registrants about ethics and professionalism. These are topics that appear to be top of mind. And they should since ultimately, the decisions made by all of these organized real estate associations (CORE) have a direct and material impact on our livelihood. And it continues to amaze me how these same organizations continue to bite the hand that feeds them while Realtors let them. As long as Realtors remain unorganized and predominantly silent, CORE will continue to feel they run the show. But non-profit associations that don’t have the benefit of a monopoly know very well that members need to be wooed, treated with respect, and never taken for granted.
    The day that the incomes of the salaried CORE association staff is messed with (as they mess with ours) is the day you’ll see some cooperation and change.
    RECO has finally shown some genuine initiative in addressing the professionalism issue but tightening up education is only a short step towards the solution. A much more proactive and broad-reaching action plan is needed. RECO’s suggestion that they can emulate real world situations before registrants are licensed is naive.
    Only real world experience can prepare a registrant for real world situations. Why does RECO think they can re-invent something that most other professions and over 200 trades have addressed long before they existed. Some trades have had apprenticeships going back to Ancient Greece (medicine).

    • Chris:
      There was a piece on the Toronto CTV news cast last night (Pat Foran, Consumer Alert) wherein a survey was conducted whereby Realtors and consumers were questioned about Realtors’ practices etc. The most damning response of all was that 88% of ‘Realtors’ surveyed said that ‘they’ had witnessed unethical practices by fellow Realtors. One needs to know what unethical practices are in order to recognize same. That result suggests that only 12% of Realtors are viewed as being professionals by their own kind! That kind of says it all.
      Did you see the CTV survey results Organized Real Estate bureaucrats? Do you care, I mean ‘really’ care?
      I will be in touch Chris.

  21. Good article. I would say it has a national ring to it.

    The old culture of real estate sales was very much socially based, and hasn’t really changed yet. While forward thinking people recognize that things must change, what are the major brokerages doing to effect change? We’re talking about an industry where “advanced training” has meant learning how to prospect effectively.

    We can teach ethics to people but people are either ethical or they’re not. One licensed practitioner whom I met early in my career, carries, perhaps, the most prestigious designation available, and yet this person was one of the most unscrupulous individuals I’ve ever met. We don’t need to wait for the implementation of higher educational standards to improve our industry, we can start now by identifying those who shouldn’t be practicing.

    A professional seller, who I know, just hired a fresh out-of-the-box newbie. I think he was fed up with the more experienced practitioners he has endured. I think that the best way to move the higher standards agenda along, is by having the Provincial Regulatory Authorities up their game, and find new ways to identify those in the herd who need to be culled!

  22. Chris
    Your thesis is well thought out, well organized and very well stated.
    The rush to the bottom of the Realtor well of irrelevancy is well underway (pun intended) thanks to what I label as the unrecognized psychology of the self-serving communal thinking practices of Organized Real Estate top level comfortably-salaried bureaucrats (not the here today, gone next year regularly turned over faux president puppets), who, because they are in perpetual positions of conflict of interest (more dues from more registrants equals more money for their in-house empires, which thus creates more guaranteed money for them personally and thence for their underling cronies which in turn leads to a solidification of their own top jobs as well as for their underlings’ jobs over whom ‘they’ need to be seen as being in control of…which is as usual job one) do what is best for themselves first, in order to avoid becoming being viewed as being redundant in the eyes of their tax-payers…the one-hundred thousand plus Canada-wide money-supplying whether-they-know-what-they-are-doing-or-not registrants. The more-the-better syndrome of creating short-term registrants for long-term bureaucracy income may be better for the bottom lines of ORE bureaucrats, but it is definitely not better for the public interest upon which the never-ending stream of amateur registrants is let loose to find their pots of gold. Visions of farmers driving their fully functioning manure spreaders spewing waste far and wide across their fields comes to mind, with the ORE bureaucrats being the farmers/drivers, the untreated flying-for-a-short-spurt ‘fertilizer’ (the by-products of cud-chewing mindless eat-almost-anything grazers) being amateur registrants and the fields being the hopeful but ignorant consumers upon which the fertilizer falls willy-nilly depending upon which way the wind is blowing.
    No wonder the majority of the public regards the real estate sales industry as being a smelly business.
    I feel sorry for the minority of actual professionals who populate the ranks of the misbegotten and who are pre-judged as being shifty by association.
    Yup…keep those dues a’ comin’ so we can keep on paying marketing companies to produce slick ads to convince consumers how professional we all are, especially ‘we’ at the top of this pyramid built knowingly upon foundations of ever-shifting dunes of windswept sand (the wind being the hot air escaping from our giant balloons of subterfuge that are being continually pricked by the jabs of reality.
    Here’s a novel idea ORE; take all of that marketing budget money and invest it in programs designed to actually produce professional Realtors from a small pre-selected stock of candidates that display the inherent qualities that a real live professional ought to possess. Three two-week in-class courses that just about any desperado without any previous industry related experience, but with a pulse, can pass, and presto, a professional Realtor is born? As Judge Judy would say……….
    Chris: How can we and other interested parties get together to encourage (maybe even arrange) some kind of an uprising on the parts of the professionals? I have some time on my hands.
    [email protected]

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