BY KATHY BEVAN

Somewhat to the surprise of both of them, one of Canada’s
smaller boards and one of its largest found themselves on the same side of a
debate: opposing immediate approval of the $25 fee increase being proposed by
CREA’s MLS and Technology Committee. CREA scheduled a vote on the proposal
during its March 24-25 annual Political Action Committee Days in Ottawa, after introducing
the proposal in January.

Elaine O’Hara, executive director of the 300‑member Quinte
& District Real Estate Board in southeastern Ontario, and Bob Wallace, executive officer
of the 7,000‑member Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board, both raised concerns
about the need for such an amount, and the short time frame allotted for
consultation.

In the past, small boards and large boards haven’t often
found themselves on the same side on national industry issues, and neither
Quinte nor Vancouver expected to share similar concerns about the proposed fee
increase.

Quinte had assumed the CREA proposal was mainly aimed at
meeting the needs of large boards such as Vancouver;
for its part, Vancouver
assumed smaller boards would fully support any CREA proposals that offered
additional technological support.

Neither board objects to the fact that $15 of the proposed
$25 increase is being earmarked for 
enhancements to MLS.ca, but both Quinte and Vancouver are questioning
what the rest of the increase will be used for.

“We really aren’t certain what the benefits are for our
members from the rest of the proposed fee increase, especially the portion that
CREA wants to put toward RealtorLink (intranet service),” says O’Hara. “We
would like to have more information, and more time to consider this.”

“We don’t think the consultation process has been anywhere
near what it should be,” says Wallace. “What we want to see is some meaningful
discussion going on about the other options that are out there.”

In February, Quinte attempted to initiate some of that
discussion by sending out a memo to all the rest of the boards in Canada,
detailing its concerns and questions. 
Director Craig Kerr, chair of the Quinte board’s Information & Technology
Committee, wanted to let other boards know that Quinte believed there were
substantive gaps in the information being circulated by CREA about its
proposition.

“CREA has been selling this on a micro level, saying, `it’s
only going to cost you $25', but what we’re really talking about here is a
$2.4- million budget in the first year,” says Kerr. “That’s really serious
money.  And what we don’t see are any
hard specifics about what they’re going to do and when they’re going to do it,
and how the costs break down.”

Kerr adds, “Just to say, give me $2-million and trust me,
it’ll be okay — I don’t think so.”

Vancouver
has an additional concern, calling CREA’s flat fee approach to fund-raising
“disturbing”.

“We believe very, very strongly in the user‑pay concept,”
says Wallace. “Our members used to pay $2 per listing for RealtyLink, as did
the Fraser Valley board, and that’s about the
cheapest advertising you’re going to find anywhere.”

Both boards were hopeful that CREA would consider postponing
its scheduled March vote, but with the Toronto
board recently throwing its support behind the $25 fee increase, such a
postponement is unlikely.  Without such a
delay, Kerr is recommending that his board vote against the proposal.  “If we can’t get a delay, then we say, no,
sorry, start over, it’s a flawed process,” says Kerr.

“We’re not anti‑technology -‑ our board voted months ago to
go with MLS.ca, saying that it is essential that we have a national MLS system,
and the IXN is the same thing,” says Kerr. 
“Where our concerns are, here comes $25 out of our pockets, and we don’t
know what’s going to be done with it.  I
wouldn’t do that in my own business, and I expect CREA to follow the same
rules.”

 

NO COMMENTS

Leave a Reply