By Susan Doran

“You are about to write one of the most important news articles in the history of real estate in Ontario,” Toronto-based financier James Zaza tells me when I call to interview him for this article.



He’s referring to the news about personal real estate corporations (PRECs), which will soon become a reality in Ontario, changing the way many real estate agents manage their business, finances and investments. Zaza is over the moon about the recent passing of the Bill 145, Trust in Real Estate Services Act, 2020 legislation (“It’s historical!” he says), which will allow Ontario Realtors to incorporate themselves and earn commissions and professional income through  a PREC, an option that opens up avenues for significant tax advantages, including lower tax rates as well as tax deferral and income splitting opportunities.

This has been available to real estate agents in other provinces for years but has only recently passed in Ontario. The Ontario Real Estate Association has been fighting for this change for well over a decade. The bill still has work to be done but is optimistically expected to be finalized any day now. It’s a game changer. Up until this point, Ontario Realtors have had no choice but to report income as a sole proprietorship (a.k.a. independent contractor), rather than claiming allowable deductions under a corporation.

The new legislation also potentially broadens pension/health care options for real estate professionals.

James Zaza
James Zaza

Says Zaza, “Part of the benefits of the PREC is the ability to create a personal pension plan for Ontario Realtors similar to the kind doctors and teachers have.”

It’s time for real estate professionals across the province to start weighing the potential tax benefits of incorporating against the prospective disadvantages (which can include incorporation charges, higher accounting fees, a rigorous application process and stricter Canada Revenue Agency compliance).

Zaza’s wealth and health management company, Zaza Financial Group, has long served real estate professionals, as well as doctors and dentists. And let’s not let it go unremarked that Zaza is also among Canada’s leading cannabis stakeholders, a distinction which has led to him being dubbed “the Canadian Warren Buffett of Weed Street.”

He has quite the history – golf games with the likes of Arnold Palmer; money still rolling in from investing (and playing a bit role) in a couple of pal Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky movies; and jumping on the bandwagon to help finance Viagra back when the drug was in its infancy.

Previously, having built alliances in the insurance and banking industries among others, Zaza created a personal pension plan for self-employed individuals – in this case real estate professionals – offering clients health and life insurance benefits. Then a few years ago, a joint venture with BMO and the Cleveland Clinic (a top-ranked, global, private hospital) ramped up the health care benefits, for the first time offering dental and drug coverage. But the clients were mainly high-income individuals – broker/owners – who were able to incorporate.

Now, on the heels of the passing of Bill 145, Zaza’s pension/health offerings will be available to all real estate professionals. “We are opening up to everybody, the whole rank and file,” says Zaza, adding that the management fee will be a “reasonable” one per cent of a client’s net invested assets.

The pending legislation is not the only new kid in town changing the real estate landscape. There is also COVID-19. Zaza, ever the entrepreneur, has factored that into the equation for the PREC Health Network, his new, revamped health/dental plan for real estate agents.

We are in a time of unprecedented change, and the social-distancing health protocols that Realtors across the country have put in place due to COVID-19 are recreating the industry, Zaza says.

“Everyone is afraid,” he says. “Clients will need proof that an agent is not infected with the virus. They will not want to take the agent’s word for it. There will be new protocols for everything.”

His solution (which he says is close to being finalized), will be to ensure that all Realtors with the PREC Health Network are supplied with COVID-19 “immunity passports”, which can be updated daily and shown to clients to reassure them that the Realtor has no symptoms of the virus or has antibodies indicating he/she is currently immune. Zaza says this will be determined via a self-administered, finger-prick blood test kit, along with daily self-monitoring of markers such as body temperature and blood/oxygen level. Cleveland Clinic will confirm health findings remotely, he says.

“The daily monitoring passport declarations should give prospects the confidence they need to do business with any agent until a vaccine becomes available,” Zaza says. “I call this the new handshake, the new normal.”

Zaza’s optimism notwithstanding, nothing is foolproof, and not everyone will be convinced that these measures are adequate, even though they will be combined with the regular precautions of wearing personal protection equipment, such as masks.

That said, similar health passports are apparently beginning to be widely used in other countries and are being considered for various situations, including with sport teams and fans in stadiums.

“It’s a start. Once a vaccine is available, inoculating the entire planet will take years,” says Zaza. “We don’t want Realtors to lose impetus and relationships. I think a lot of agents are going to need help – they will need to show clients that they are safe. We can help agents get back into their routine.”

5 COMMENTS

  1. This went from PREC’s to daily finger pricks for Covid-19. I think I am in the twilight zone. Thanks for your more detailed response Carolyne. This deserves publication in the “Beaverton” .

    • Sabine, this happenstance / serendipity (?) article continues the journey one could suppose? Hard for a near octogenarian to compute some days. For those who will go on to live to be a 100, it’s hard to even imagine how they would digest the information. But we’ve seen it coming already since a couple of decades ago, at least.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Carolyne L 🍁

      ===

      Could microchipped employees become the future of the workplace?
      “A well-designed implant is frictionless, managementless, and becomes part of who you are.”

      Read in Inverse: https://apple.news/ARXi4tBHTTaOvy9yTrbXG5g

      Shared from Apple News

  2. Good fortune with your book, Brian. And with your agent who says it would be a good movie. Maybe your Riley wouldn’t want to come back to the new world order we will have here in the future. It might be unrecognizable?

    Carolyne L 🍁

  3. Among the tens of thousands of reps out there how many are diabetics who puncture / prick their fingers everyday to check their blood work relative to insulin? Will the new passport system use the same type of system? Next thing we know reps will be required to be “chipped” like their pets for purposes of tracking in pandemics to come and for recording where they have been and with whom, for record-keeping, and how far you drive vis a vis how many miles you claim on your tax return.

    You must run your info passport or chip through airport scanners when you travel. You won’t be able to start your car until you record its current mileage. And fill in your updated passport and have inserted the information into your CRM?

    Is it likely the public – buyers and sellers will demand that agents provide the results of the suggested passport program? Will they see that very soon they too might be required under some new actual law, to provide such information to their own office or work station not only to record their work at home whereabouts, but their concurrent medical information? Blood pressure each day, etc. ? Be careful what you ask of agents? It works both ways.

    Maybe agents will demand to see such owner passports before agreeing to physically show a property or do a CMA. The appraiser might want to see the homeowner passport status before agreeing to attend, or the home inspector might require such in order to report the homeowner status to his field boss in case he might be submitting more than the property report to head office. And to his office insurance provider to confirm where he has been.

    All futuristic thinking? started by the real estate world, compliance would be mandatory in order to renew your licence or registration, likewise your driver’s licence, and be required by any business that requires licencing, such as bars, doctor offices, dentists and such. No passport, no licence renewal.

    That’s certainly one way of tracking everyone. And then there’s the insurance business who would be enabled to process your chip or passport information. And there’s always someone willing to sell and buy your information for marketing purposes. (That’s already happening). The salivating has already begun?

    Once the article writer’s system is operational, of course it’s ripe for a billion dollar buyout from a mega giant organization one could suppose, totally unrelated to real estate. 1984 intent revisited and updated.

    Maybe I misunderstood the article intent?

    Carolyne L 🍁

    • Like I posted herein on an earlier story, if one wants to see where this is all going, read my new novel, now available by Googling: “Amazon/Kindle ebooks”, then typing into the search bar: “Riley Youngblood and the Passport to Santalamanchia”.

      We are insidiously becoming Santalamanchia.

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