If you sit down and talk with a real estate salesperson who has been in the business for more than just a few years, they will likely tell you that both the industry and the marketplace in Ontario have changed considerably from when they entered the profession.
The availability of smartphones, social media and other technology has changed and continues to change everything we do, including the attitudes of home buyers and sellers. Consumers are using these tools to access instantly available data and make more informed decisions. The media has also generated a greater interest in real estate and the rules that govern its purchase and sale. And the number of salespeople, brokers and brokerages registered with the Real Estate Council of Ontario has grown by an astounding 68 per cent to 82,152 since 1997. That’s a huge increase.
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus had it right when he said that the only thing constant in life is change; organizations must anticipate and embrace change. With that in mind, RECO’s Board of Directors and senior staff spent two days in April discussing some very big questions about RECO’s future: how are we doing, where are we going and how will we get there?
We covered a lot of ground in those talks. The end result was a Strategic Plan for the next five years that’s bold in tone and bold in its commitments: Modern Regulation for a Dynamic Marketplace. The plan is ambitious and forward-thinking. It enhances our commitment to being a progressive regulator, putting transparency and accountability at the heart of all we do.
The Strategic Plan outlines three key goals and a number of practical objectives:
1. Deliver innovative, progressive regulation:
RECO can’t merely respond to change – we must have the capacity to forecast and anticipate change, and then have the systems, regulatory processes and workplace culture in place to adapt nimbly. This goal speaks to RECO’s mission: protecting consumers through effective and innovative regulation. The development of a new education program designed to meet this objective is a huge initiative to move us in that direction.
In practice, this means: gathering and analyzing greater amounts of data to better inform our decision making; integrating risk-based analysis into everything we do; proactively advising government on the state of real estate regulation; and enhancing the communication of our professional standards.
2. Support an informed real estate market in Ontario:
At RECO, we often say that an educated consumer is an empowered consumer. Creating a well-informed real estate market is a big part of what we do. RECO’s consumer and stakeholder outreach efforts must continue to focus on informing buyers and sellers about their rights and responsibilities, delivering consumer protection advice and raising awareness of the services we provide to safeguard consumers in the public interest.
In practice, this means: enhancing our initiatives to inform Ontario consumers; making it easier for the public to access critical regulatory information and reinforcing RECO’s role as a regulator; and engaging with real estate salespeople and brokers to raise the bar for professionalism and promote consumer protection.
3. Create a resilient organization:
It’s useful to set high-level priorities and craft elegantly written mission statements for an organization, but change is ultimately achieved by the efforts of people. The foundation of any organization is its staff, so we must ensure we have the right people working for us and they have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.
In practice, this means modernizing our system of governance and inspiring staff to embrace our vision, and ensuring we have the organizational structure (staff, facilities, capital and technology) to anticipate and respond to change.
As I mentioned in my last article, my colleagues at RECO and I are currently touring the province on a second Town Hall tour. I’m pleased to report that our new Strategic Plan has already generated a worthwhile dialogue among industry leaders. We want to hear what RECO stakeholders have to say. The only way we’re going to meet the challenges of the years ahead is by working together.