By Jim Adair

Pauline Aunger loves being president of the Canadian Real Estate Association. She thinks more Realtors should get involved with organized real estate. Why?

“Everybody says it’s to give back to the association, and that it’s rewarding both personally and professionally. That’s the pat answer,” she says. “All the time I’ve been involved in the real estate community has made me a better Realtor. So the advantage that being involved gives you is that you’re on top of what’s going on and you understand why things have changed – and you are part of the change rather than learning about it later.”

She adds, “I can’t imagine my life in real estate without being involved. It’s been a great pleasure to be a part of the change instead of waiting to see what happens.”

Aunger, broker of record at Royal LePage Advantage Real Estate in Smiths Falls, Ont., is a past-president of her local real estate board and of the Ontario Real Estate Association. Recently REM interviewed Aunger at CREA’s national headquarters in Ottawa.

aunger frontOrganized real estate has been criticized as being an “old boys club” where the same people run boards and associations for years. At this spring’s Annual General Meeting, CREA will present a proposal that, if approved, would change the qualifications needed to serve on its Board of Directors.

“There used to be a requirement that you had to serve on a local board or provincial association as a director for so many years (before you could join CREA’s board),” says Gary Simonsen, CREA’s chief executive officer. The proposal would allow those who have served on other governing boards – not necessarily related to real estate – to qualify. “It’s about bringing those skills and competencies to the table,” he says.

Aunger adds, “It’s about getting the right people, who may not have had the opportunity to serve locally but are interested in serving at the national level.”

She points out that four people on the current Board of Directors did not serve as provincial association presidents. “I think the old boy’s network has changed,” she says.

Still, Realtors are notoriously apathetic when it comes to taking part in organized real estate.

“We have 112,000 members and not all of them are involved,” says Aunger. “Maybe some of them want to be but don’t know it yet. So it’s about helping people get into the process – you only get a volunteer by asking them.”

She notes that many more real estate professionals are involved in volunteering for local charitable causes, by giving their personal time as well as contributing financially.

CREA also faces pressure from the membership to cut its bureaucracy and keep member dues down, and to this end the Board of Directors was reduced from 20 members to 16 last year. More recently, the Executive Committee was eliminated to further streamline the association’s governance.

Aunger says her main goal during her year as president is to continue reaching out to members via the association’s popular series of Open House meetings. She and a team of staff and other members of the Board of Directors are visiting boards and associations across the country to fill them in on CREA’s latest activities, and so far that has taken her from Vancouver Island to Atlantic Canada.

She says she believes the different levels of organized real estate are “talking more often” than in the past and “that helps us to get along better. It’s a case of never ignoring your differences or problems but always being able to talk about them. Basically we’re all here to help our members, whether we’re talking about the provincial association, the local board or the national association. The Realtor is the most important part of this.”

While CREA officials won’t comment on the ongoing Competition Tribunal case involving the Toronto Real Estate Board’s MLS policies, Aunger says that regardless of how that case turns out, CREA intends to maintain as “the No. 1 website in Canada.”

She says, “Realtors want it to be the best it can be. There are some enhancements coming but I’m not going to tell you about them because that would take all the fun out of it.” But among the improvements will be the accommodation of more high-resolution photos and real-time property updates.

“As a Realtor, you want your listings in as many places as possible and that’s why the data distribution facility (DDF) exists,” Aunger says. “The Realtors choose where to put their listings and the public decides where they go to look for them. The public likes quick information and they like mobile. When we have the No. 1 website, all Realtors benefit from it.”

Another priority is getting to know the new federal government. More than 200 new MPs will be serving in the House of Commons. CREA has sent them all a book with issues of concern to Realtors, including sections about the Home Buyer’s Plan, FINTRAC regulations, the Privacy Act, anti-spam legislation and more. The association’s PAC days conference has been moved to fall from spring, so the government will have been in place for about a year by the time the next conference comes around.

CREA is also monitoring the threat that mandatory home energy audits could be coming to Ontario. Aunger says she was shocked when she saw that the idea was back on the table. “If you Google me, you will see me standing in front of the legislature talking about this very thing” when she was president of OREA in 2009.

On a personal level, Aunger admits that her activities as president do cut into her real estate business. “I’m lucky because my daughter is a Realtor and she helps cover for me. But I don’t want to give the illusion that I’m not selling while I’m serving as president because I am. It’s about managing my time. When the year ends I’ll still be a Realtor. I’ll be a Realtor for the rest of my life.”


  1. Real estate is changing, ever so slowly, but it is changing and for the better. Sellers today have more choice and competition within the industry is getting better. Alan M might not like the mere posting but consumers do and that’s what matters, and that’s what the CB intended to do. If sellers want to do it on their own then who are we to stop them? How can we be so righteous to think that using a Realtor is the only way to sell a home? or even to think that using a Realtor would have guaranteed a different outcome for the folks living on a dump. If they did represent themselves then they have to live with their mistake and learn. Real estate is changing and it hasn’t all blown up in our face as Ross or Alan or Brian might suggest it has or will. In fact, the only thing that hasn’t changed is their disregard for those who work so hard to make this industry so great.

    • HWR,

      You are certainly consistent – if nothing else.

      Regarding your following beam of darkness: “How can we be so righteous to think that using a Realtor is the only way to sell a home? or even to think that using a Realtor would have guaranteed a different outcome for the folks living on a dump.”

      How could we be so negative (righteous has nothing to do with it) as to think that using a REALTOR wouldn’t have provided a different outcome? It is our responsibility to learn from our mistakes, and it is us that should wear it, when we do — not unsuspecting consumers who can’t be expected to perceive of the risk! No-Agency means little or no protection for the real estate consumer.

      HWR, when you question the likelihood of: “a different outcome for the folks living on a dump.” it is you who is expressing your: ” disregard for those who work so hard to make this industry so great.” and the best part is: you don’t even realize you are talking out of both sides of your mouth, at the same time, to do it!

  2. aaah – Organized Real Estate…..such piety. At he governance level, both Provincially and Nationally, you tend to….a) suppress dissent b) close off membership at the “big table” to all except those who agree with you c) be unflinchingly self- congratulatory, and
    d) lack both vision and courage. Apathy isn’t the problem, the problem is that while many Realtors don’t mind donating their time….we’re simply tired of throwing it away.

  3. Brian,

    I think that given the current human chemistry within the real estate industry, that realistically, it is unlikely we can achieve real change — unless we have a total collapse of organized real estate, as we know it. To that end, I see the current matter before the Tribunal as being, potentially, the pivotal event in the: continuation of the acceleration towards the end, or, conversely, a claw-back to bring us back to our senses.

    A story ran, recently, here on REM pertaining to an Ontario Superior Court Decision regarding a Seller’s: Property Information Disclosure Statement (SPIS). For me, the main part of the story related to the fact the the subject property was an MLS listed property with a licensed brokerage, and consequently would have been associated with all the CREA Registered Trademark entities. Regardless of whether anyone ever confirms that the subject property was listed on the basis of being a “mere posting” the circumstances of the representation, as depicted in the Court Summary, are absolutely consistent with what would be natural and expected of both the selling and buying consumers not having any representation (No-Agency).

    Are we to think that the current President of CREA is serious when she says: It’s been a great pleasure to be a part of the change instead of waiting to see what happens.” — if, part of that “change” has been that the CREA Trademarks are now associated with consumers being suckered-in to buy a home that is sitting on top on a, retired, Public Landfill? Were I the CREA President, I would be enraged to think that our trademarks could be prostituted to play any role in facilitating such a, blindfolded, trade! Apparently, no one else is? Apparently, the majority feel that we can slide down this greasy and filthy slope and stand up at the bottom free of the dirt and grime, and looking ready to walk to the podium to give the next speech. Unbelievable! And to complete the absurdity of the situation regarding the subject real estate trade, it was the Seller who initiated the litigation — not the Buyer’s!

    The CREA President further showed her absolute lack of awareness regarding the gravity of the current matter before the Competition Tribunal, when she claimed: “…regardless of how that case turns out, CREA intends to maintain as “the No. 1 website in Canada.” — because, should TREB not prevail and not prevail again at the very end (The Supreme Court, as need be), will be but a: moot point, and so will countless other websites!

    In the end, the pollution effecting this industry may bring about the kind of abrupt change that is really needed — when it is more or less taken out of our hands, much like when we pollute Nature, itself!

  4. “While CREA officials won’t comment on the ongoing Competition Tribunal case involving the Toronto Real Estate Board’s MLS policies, Aunger says that regardless of how that case turns out, CREA intends to maintain as “the No. 1 website in Canada.”

    At the very least, the CREA President should be able to speak in general terms as to why CREA sought Intervenor status, and what they wanted to achieve as a result of their presence at the Tribunal. By avoiding the topic completely, it makes us look weak in our resolve from the national perspective — when we can’t even simply state our objective out loud!

    • How can a here-today-gone-tomorrow 107,000 constantly-churning member organization that is represented on the national public stage by yearly-churning here-today-gone-tomorrow part-time president-puppets (controlled by the there-forever old-guard back-room boys) expect to be taken seriously?
      Jim-the-Editor-guy elected to store my most recent submission herein in his special drawer of flammable material, rightly so, likely due to my use of a bad/debatable word/concept therein…institutional internally-unrecognized “corruption”.
      There is a good report out there commissioned by the NAR that deals with all of the underlying problems that plaques ORE entitled: “Dangers Impacting Associations”. Simply GOOGLE “DANGER Report – Study of dangers, risks, threats and black swans in real estate”. But by just entering “Danger Report” the link will appear top of page.
      Maybe some of you are unaware of this report, just as I was unaware of it until a well-informed colleague recently sent me the link, but it is well worth reading and thinking about.
      Among the categories dealt with therein are, as titled: “Too many uninformed decisions are taken; The lowest common denominator impediment; The unwieldy governance structure; Changing of the old guard; The dues disconnect” etc., and the list goes on.
      Apparently this newest CREA golf-and-country-club style part-time President-puppet-for-a-year is not allowed to speak her mind regarding all issues ORE related. The slavish adherence to political correctness and its progeny, obfuscation, is alive and well it seems. When institutions become so big that they communally think that they cannot fail, they automatically go into brand-defense mode whereby the brand (and their jobs therein) is/are what must be saved at all costs, at the expense of those for whom they claim to exist…the expendables…the grunts. It is a well-rigged game.
      If Jim posts this I guess I toned it down enough.</p.

      • Brian,

        Being as fair as I can be, I would honestly say that it isn’t possible to be overly critical of CREA. The CREA President lost me regarding the subject presentation with: It’s been a great pleasure to be a part of the change instead of waiting to see what happens.” Unless a bigger circus is always a better circus, Ms. Aunger should feel obliged to articulate what the benefits are that can be clearly associated with the “change” of which she boasts, herein. The CREA trademarks no longer mean what they were worth prior to October 2010, but more to the point, they don’t mean what they should mean, and even more importantly again the potential confusion as to what they mean now is harmful to consumers.

        There is a tone to Ms. Aunger’s message that suggests the life will go on for organized real estate, in a favorable and undamaged way, win or lose at the Tribunal. To my mind to decline to talk about CREA’s goals as it relates to the current matter before the Tribunal and in the same breath talk about how will still be #1, is dumbfounding to me! One doesn’t go into a battle that they feel they need to win, and acknowledge before the conclusion that they will be comfortable with defeat! You would never see this kind of shoot-yourself-in-the-foot leadership in a Corporate Boardroom.

        Unless the membership strongly shows their dissatisfaction with the continued kind of leadership that we’re receiving at the top, and below, we have no reason not to expect more of the same. What better place to start building the consensus required for real change, than here on REM?

        • Alan:
          I agree that this forum is the starting point for generating national interest in the much needed overhaul of ORE governance structures including the replacement of key operatives within. I do not believe that the likes of CREA can be tweaked enough to become a true representative body of its financial supporters due to the governance structure as it is set up today. To make things worse, the old guard within is too deeply imbedded. It needs to be entirely replaced, and that can only be achieved by way of a full blown dues-payer rebellion in the form of withholding of dues. The old guard will never render themselves obsolete. That is why they are the old guard.
          Regarding Realtor fears about CREA’s power over them: CREA and the provincial associations cannot take Realtors licenses away from them. They are simply trade associations.
          Regarding associations’ self-serving cultural attitudes: The associations have become entities unto themselves with job one being their own existences and ideally, their continued growth to mainly worry about. Money is the only thing that matters to the folks at the top, but, not so much do they worry about the folks in the field, no matter what their press releases say to the contrary. The sad thing is that most Realtors do not know what CREA, for instance, actually does to justify its existence. Most Realtors are short-termers thrashing about desperately trying to obtain listings and buyers in order to survive for another month or two. They have no interest in anything else in life including keeping up with things as presented in REM. They are ignorant as to what is going on within the industry’s political machinations; they simply don’t care. Only a very few care, and CREA knows this. Thus CREAcrats do as they please knowing that only a few will criticize them herein, and the critiques simply bounce off of them as they pay lip service to the grunts every once in awhile to keep themselves wrapped in a false sense of performing important duties on behalf of their provincial associations as they are constitutionally required to. There is a huge disconnect. Again, as you know, their is no actual duty-call to actually perform for the grunts…who pay them and who think that their personal skies will fall if they refuse to pay them.
          Nothing short of a financial withdrawal of support will lead to a change of anything anywhere within ORE.
          What would you suggest that interested, influential folks do in order to get the rebellion ball rolling? Would you be onside in the first place?
          I would be interested in becoming involved in a small way in a movement of like-minded individuals who would work together to dismantle the monolithic executive structure known as CREA, to change the constitution to make CREA responsible ‘directly’ to its dues payers, and to install a new (elected by all Realtors) body of people at the top who are reflective of and actually tuned into the Realtor population at large.
          CREA can’t be fixed; it needs to be dismantled and rebuilt with new blood at the top. It needs to be directed by real leaders. The current crop of executives will never vote to replace themselves, and therefore, as you have correctly stated, nothing much will change.
          What’s your pleasure my friend?

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