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.
Organized 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 realtor.ca 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.”