By Joseph Richer

Have you ever wondered how successful companies manage to attain greatness? Author Jim Collins studied over 1,400 established firms for his book, Good to Great, and he discovered the secret isn’t money, technology or even fear of failure, but rather steadfast discipline, or “a down-to-earth, pragmatic, committed-to-excellence process – a framework kept each company, its leaders and its people on track for the long haul.”

In other words, organizations must continually commit themselves to the task of improvement. The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) expects salespeople and brokers to upgrade their skills and knowledge through continuing education: completing RECO’s Mandatory Continuing Education (MCE) courses and exploring additional professional development opportunities. RECO holds itself to similar expectations of continual improvement. That’s why last year, following a competitive RFP process, RECO worked with consulting firm CamProf Inc. to launch a formal and rigorous review of all aspects of the MCE program.

Overall, 2018 was a very good year for the MCE program. RECO introduced four new elective courses, and its work received some important recognition. RECO’s Advertising Compliance MCE elective was awarded the Brandon Hall Group’s Bronze in the “2018 Best Advance in Compliance Training” category, while the Real Estate Fraud section of the 2017 Update Course, and the Waterfront Properties course received Platinum and Gold Hermes Creative Awards, respectively.

It was an honour for my colleagues to receive these awards, but the real test of the MCE program is its overall perception by RECO’s registrants. That’s why every MCE course includes a feedback survey. RECO received 19,463 survey responses from registrants last year, and the results were extremely positive:

  • 97 per cent indicated the content was relevant to their individual real estate practice
  • 96 per cent indicated the activities gave them the opportunity to apply their knowledge of the topics
  • 96 per cent indicated the content was interesting and easy to follow
  • 97 per cent indicated the course was easy to navigate and understand
  • 91 per cent liked the pace of the course
  • 96 per cent enjoyed the flexibility of learning online at their own convenience and pace.

My colleagues and I were pleased with these results, but we decided the program could benefit from an outside evaluation. Since most of RECO’s registrants had completed the MCE cycle, RECO launched a review that included a specific examination of the technology platform and the possibility of adding new features and functionality, the relevancy and presentation of course content, the learner experience and course delivery methods, including the feasibility of classroom options as well as social and micro learning. CamProf sought registrant feedback through surveys and focus groups.

All RECO registrants who had taken the MCE program were asked to participate in a special CamProf survey a year ago. These results were also positive: 78 per cent of our registrants believed they were better informed about regulatory requirements after they took a course, and satisfaction with the content, delivery and applicability of our courses was 70 per cent or higher, depending upon the course.

The CamProf survey data informed RECO staff that two-thirds of respondents completed additional or supplementary professional development elsewhere – mostly through brokerages and local boards. RECO has always encouraged registrants to take a proactive approach to professional development, so this was very encouraging.

Real estate salespeople and brokers are eager to learn, but they want to learn on their own terms; for instance, 87 per cent said they want to complete the MCE program on their chosen device and many registrants mentioned in the focus groups that RECO could do a better job of delivering the information.

This is valuable feedback. My colleagues and I sincerely thank everyone – registrants and key stakeholders – who shared their thoughts on the MCE program.

RECO’s action plan:

RECO will initiate a series of actions over the next three years to take its MCE program from good to great. These include:

  • Investigating the best options for providing in-person offerings, or virtual classrooms for registrants who wish to learn that way. This means drilling down by getting additional thoughts, opinions and ideas from registrants on specific MCE topics such as classroom learning, and then further refining that feedback through focus group discussions
  • Enhancing the MCE program platform and improving the learner experience by making course materials easier to access through tablets, iPads and other devices, leveraging more system functionality to provide additional features such as an MCE reminder setting controlled by the registrant and looking at social learning platforms and collaborative opportunities – allowing the learner to have more control over the experience
  • Defining and communicating the MCE program’s purpose of enhancing regulatory compliance and consumer protection, building a foundation for professionalism and spotlighting industry issues
  • Connecting the registration and learning cycles so registrants can easily access the courses they have completed as a reference in order to reinforce learning and to make the process more straightforward
  • Looking at opportunities to make MCE course content even more relevant and understandable to registrants by including more case studies and best practices when they are useful
  • Providing registrants with more opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas on their learning needs; this could include building a ratings system into course evaluations, so registrants could inform RECO and fellow registrants about the difficulty or overall usefulness of a course.


  1. I absolutely am shocked to read that the statistics of satisfaction with the content are as high as stated. Commercial real estate brokers represent about 10% of all registrants. And there is almost zero commercial continuing ed content in the RECO update courses.
    I understand that RECO serves the public with regard to the 90% residential practitioners, but there must be a provision to allow for Commercial education to be recognized as credible CE credits toward the required update requirements. i would much rather sit through an 8 hour RELEVANT webinar or classroom than 3 hours of clicking buttons to check a CE box off.

    • I agree with you on classroom option than clicking buttons. This allows face to face interaction with other agents, than button clicking alone.

  2. Nelson,

    You wrote, in part:
    “Joe actually told the public in The Star that Home Sellers pay the commission.”

    In a TV interview Wendy Mesley, a few years ago, stated a version of the same thing during an interview asking when the Ministry was going to “do something” about multiple offers (that she knew for certain was causing home prices in Toronto to run amok).

    My comment is not about increasing prices, but rather she asked when “he” was going to put a “stop to multiple offers being permitted.” How would anyone ever forbid multiple offers??? Would that not make us a police-state?

    My observance begs the question once again: who (I’m talking real people with real names / who actually signed the new procedures into place, initially, called buyer brokerage contracts) decided and how did it come to be, in the early 1990’s, that buyer brokerage came to be, as a finite presence?

    Representation and commission paid clearly are not interchangeable concepts. But why then do the forms delineate options as to who pays, and who pays what? for what?

    If what you quote is true, why is a buyer broker enabled to charge the buyer any commission at all, making up the difference of his established fee (tied to listings offering to pay $1.00 or any such apportionment) for a buyer broker to successfully operate his buyer broker business and stay in business (and even make a profit?), if as the quote seems to indicate, the buyer broker is best suited just to accept whatever a seller is offering even if only a dollar. We had “that” discussion in other articles… on REM.

    Recently a comment on REM asked why there were no specific buyer brokerage companies. Is the answer not tied to your recent quote?

    No wonder the public is confused. Is the quote you posted, noted above, supported in any sort of documented teachings or forms provided that a REALTOR uses in conducting daily business wherein it is stated: Mr. Seller – when signing this listing contract, you clearly understand that you are “completely” responsible for the full payment of the commission – [as and because the head of RECO stated publicly it is a fact] as quoted by and stated officially by RECO, relative to the Province of Ontario? As you may have seen recently in the Star newspaper, this quote… (Above)

    Likewise in a buyer broker contract, the object of which is to address representation, does it not state clearly: You, Mr. Buyer, are not responsible for paying any commission or part thereof because the seller is completely responsible for paying (all) the commission, as quoted by real estate officialdom in the Toronto Star (this newspaper is a national and even internationally read newspaper). And the officialdom referred to explicitly refers to governance in the Province of Ontario.

    This quote would appear to put any buyer who committed to pay any portion of commission, in a buyer broker contract, during the past twenty-five years, to be in a position enabling any buyer who had signed a commitment to pay the commission in whole or in part, to sue his agent for misrepresentation re: the agreement to pay commission that he was asked to sign? (As in “commission is paid by the seller.)

    This quote as you have noted, clearly is in contravention of the government instituted Ministry buyer brokerage contract forms? wherein a buyer contracts to pay part or all of the commission involved in reference to any given property transaction?

    Does this subject and your quote not defy the buyer brokerage apparatus and Ministry designed and blessed forms in place for the past twenty-five years?

    I’m not trying to be argumentative. Merely stating what might be obvious to higher minds based on the quote supplied.

    Moving forward following this quote officially supplied, buyer brokerages representing a specific buyer, for certain need to have a buyer review his buyer broker contract as regarding commission to be paid by a given buyer and how, with his own lawyer of choice prior to signing a buyer brokerage contract.

    He likely will be told that in fact the quoted material herein is correct… Because most lawyers have no clue about buyer broker transactions even after mandatory buyer brokerage representation became a method of doing business in the early 1990’s and government forms were provided relative to who exactly pays commission in part or in full.

    Such divisive quotes, especially from on high serves to confuse the public and agents equally, not the least of which, the owner brokers and brokers of record who must monitor each transaction their salespeople write; and where does this quote and discussion leave team leaders and teams who find themselves in disagreement with files of contracts signed by buyers stipulating a buyer will pay all or part of the commission at this time (a work in progress). Any buyer currently under such contract might now seemingly be in a position to cancel his current buyer broker contract?

    Can someone discuss this quote in more detail? There is clearly something wrong with this situation?

    Carolyne L ?

    • Carolyne:

      Some excellent points.

      Perhaps this should be removed from RECO’s site regarding buyer brokerage commissions – “You can expect the BRA to include a commission clause. Though real estate brokerage commissions are often paid by the seller after a deal closes”. Why does RECO even suggest that the seller often pays the commission. This is why BUYERS have come to believe that real estate services are FREE. Also many Realtor websites often state that there is no cost for buyers to use their services. Sellers should NOT be setting a fee for the buyer’s agents. Perhaps it is time for CBC Marketplace to do a study on real estate commissions. Under the present real estate model why would any buyer sign an agency agreement??

      • Thank you, David

        You wrote, in part: “Why does RECO even suggest that the seller often pays the commission.” (The keyword being “often.”)

        The quote contributed in his REM comment by Nelson, as stated by the registrar doesn’t seem to say “often” or “sometimes” or “mostly,” it says:

        Nelson wrote, in part:
        “Joe actually told the public in The Star that Home Sellers pay the commission.” (in a rather unequivocal statement… indubitable)

        The statement Nelson quoted sounded as though the comment was a “fact.” And, that was what prompted my reply to Nelson.

        As I noted, my intent was/is not to belabour the topic but rather confirming as Nelson has stated on prior occasions, that buyer brokerage, representation acknowledgement aside, opens the door to the commission-related topic (by virtue of the related forms required at listing time and re-confirmed at offer time).

        These forms need to be removed or remedied as being useless (no need for), if what the registrar is quoted as having said in the Star and other places, is true, in actuality. If in fact it is so, that the seller pays the commission, clearly that can be confirmed at the time of listing, in some sort or manner as I alluded to in my reply to Nelson’s most prior REM comment.

        If what the registrar stated is, in fact, the way it is and is meant to be, the directives in the buyer brokerage agreements relative to who pays and who pays how much need to be removed from the process. Just my humble opinion, David.

        That, as I wrote in my comment to Nelson’s, would leave room for no dispute as to who pays, in reality, in actual dollars and cents, clarifying once and for all that in fact it is the seller who physically pays.

        We are not disputing the philosophical theory that in the end it is the buyer who pays, as the contracted for “fee” is built into the end price because whatever dollar figure ends up as the reported sold price of a given property includes the commission payout figure as a closing adjustment tallied by the closing law offices, as per real estate brokerage invoice(s).

        One of my chief concerns always has been how the reported sold price is bastardized when the buyer broker fee is not accounted for, or even addressed, often making numbers used by appraisers completely skewed as relevant comparables. In prior days, appraisers would often establish relationships with agents or at least be privy to picking up the phone if any such questions needed an explanation. With the advent of robotic evaluators, nothing relative to sold prices reported is reliable.

        Appreciate your taking time to comment re this every day encountered issue in the process an agent has no choice but to adhere to, seemingly contradicted in real life, by the registrar. It’s an “oh dear me” topic that is unsustainable surely in the mind of a new agent and clearly a setup dilemma were anyone entertaining the concept of opening a buyer only brokerage office.

        Carolyne L ?

          • David,

            Very interesting indeed, and current: dated 03/06/19

            I can’t begin to imagine the comeuppance if the Cdn Competition Bureau gets hold of this, even so it is NAR based.

            Of particular note, items: 33, 59, 89.

            I can’t remember who it was on REM, in response to one of my posts, put forth the question as to how come there aren’t any apparent “buyer brokerage only” real estate companies. In the mid-80s, there was a tried effort, I think in the Ottawa area, but after less than a year, went back to the “we always did it this way” method of doing business.

            Of course that was still sub-agency days. Many didn’t realize how simple were the rules of the road, so to speak, back then. You really only needed to know when to keep your mouth shut (forgive the choice of words). Now, when that is even more important tied to fiduciary duty in practicing buyer brokerage, often everybody shares “everything.” In the vein of full transparency.

            I replied to the noted comment at the time, as to the impracticality of running such; mostly because Canadian agents do not understand buyer brokerage in its entirety, and the topic is not well-imparted in said course materials. And for sure many brokers (owners) don’t believe in it all all and only comply because they must.

            I tried to clarify in my consumer-education articles over a few decades, in my newsletters, and in particular for unknown visitors to my website (who often already had an agent, and would email me asking: how come my own agent didn’t tell me all this?), that representation and commissions paid, although relative are not one and the same thing.

            Of course there’s the age-old issue that many people don’t read. If by reading, questions are prompted, that’s a wonderful thing. But (not all, certainly) agents are so busy being busy, and anxious to get on with the next transaction, there are times when explanations can seem too involved and too time-consuming. And fearful they will get asked questions they might not have answers to. There’s never anything wrong with saying: “I don’t know, but I will find out for you” or: “You might want to check with your lawyer (but many of them don’t believe in buyer brokerage either or care to understand it.

            We are often in an industry marked by: “quick, quick, sign here, I have five other clients waiting for me” type discussions. And there’s no police-state monitoring of such activity, of course.

            We are no longer permitted to include any commission-talk or reference “within” the construct of an APS. Specific special new (25 years ago and modified) separate forms are required to be signed by ALL parties to the contract, prior to offers being reviewed, presented.

            Selling properties by email can be a different kind of nightmare (the more people involved the merrier). But many agents have made a great success out of doing so, even just using smart phones, not even owning a computer.

            It’s a fascinating business, for certain.
            It will be interesting to see the end result for the link material you so kindly posted on REM.

            Of course if you are in MB, your activity is governed by the Securities Commission and maybe different again?

            Carolyne L ?

        • If RECO is even stating that sellers “often” set and pay the buyer brokerage fees then they are probably stepping over the line. As I have stated many times in the past, it is only the buyers that should be setting their fees and not the sellers. This is going to be a huge problem for the real estate industry in Canada at some point. Allowing the sellers to set the BA fees means that the larger listing brokers are able to control the fee structure for the RE industry. “Often” Realtors suggest to sellers that if they don’t offer “X” amount to the buyer’s agents, Realtors will not show their property. This has been going on for years and has been costing sellers and buyers millions in overpaying on commissions. Sellers should only pay for their services and let the BA negotiate their fees with their buyer clients. Until this takes place their will be few successful Exclusive Buyer Brokerages. I’m not sure that the MLS will survive if these changes were introduced.

  3. I love Jim the-editor-guy’s choice of picture to lead into this story (I assume it was Jim’s choice): One live light bulb and four dead ones. That about sums up the failure-to-success ratio amongst newbies methinks. Most failures are out of the business…dead—just like those four out of five light bulbs—before they know most of the rules and regulations. That leaves just the one in five bulbs burning, but how brightly, and for how much longer, remains a mystery. Maybe they work via a dimmer switch. Would that make them dim and dimmer, or dimmer and dimmerer, or dimmerer and dimmererest? Where’s the juice? AC or DC, or ACDC? Wireless maybe?

    Would Jim Carey make a good Realtor? He sometimes talks through his ass when he’s not full of gas. If he talks through his mouth and ass at the same time, would that be like practicing dual agency? If he fell into the cesspool of under-the-radar unreported RECO violators would he know which end was up?

    Sorry Jim; I just couldn’t resist.

  4. The Median REALTOR in Ontario under Joe’s watch did not sell one home in 2018 and will not sell one in 2017.

    Joe actually told the public in The Star that Home Sellers pay the commission.
    Joe actually told the public in The Star it is OK to use a Dual Agent
    Joe is right now trying to convince the Government that the 50 yr old definition of Agency being a Brokerage level of representation never existed. Pretty clear he never read the OLD Orea text books which I suspect will make news headlines should Joe change the definition through his work with Tim.

    Apparently Joe has never sat in on one of those so called professional development ( get your free credits by sitting on a chair) courses. Clearly CamPro believes a sales rally held course on NLP is professional development.

    Joe start enforcing the act. Start with your Board of Directors who over 1/2 as of today openly ignore your social media requirements the Best in the profession never break.

    Joe why are REALTORS trying to hide the word Sales Representative on their signs. Why are you allowing even the word Brokerage to be so small you need to right up the sign or ad and squint to see it. What is everyone hiding? Why are you allowing this to happen?

    Joe have you prosecuted any of the 12 sales reps who were caught on tape by CBC marketplace violating REBBA?

    Joe you are allowing brokers to go on live TV making false and misleading comments to the public and you refuse to act.

    Remember Joe their was no RECO in the last Ontario Housing Correction. There was no scapegoat to be found by foreclosed upon families who believed their realtor that prices would only go up.

  5. I prefer the classroom approach and having the ability to meet my fellow realtors an discuss real life situations. The back and forth challenges realtors to go beyond the material presented in MCE courses, which are dry and tedious.

  6. Making professionals endlessly click the next button for hours on end is a prime example of what is wrong with all organisations like RECO. We have to make money in the real world to pay the fees that they use to make our life more difficult. I recently received on offer from a rookie agent with countless mistakes. Instead of focusing on elevating the professionalism of new agents they make experienced agents without any complaints complete silly courses.

    • Your comments ‘John Smith’ are right on. Many new registrants come out of the licencing courses with virtually no ability to work in the business. There needs to be significantly more emphasis and testing on knowing the practical aspects or preparing and presenting an offer, which clauses to include and working with the software.

      • Bob:

        The main concern that most brokerages have with newbies is their ability to go out and secure listings. All else regarding developing professionalism follows at a snail’s pace. Newbie flames out; listings remain active. It’s all about what’s on the shelf for sale…and putting more newbies in the saddle with the ability to pay, pay, pay…dues, dues, dues…and desk fees. That’s some professional development program. The Realtor development program should be called “How To Empty Your Bank Account Really Fast…The End Game”.

        The only newbies who can get on with it from day one are those who possess previous experience in the field as tradespeople, appraisers, building officials, conciliators, lawyers etc. The rest flail about like non-swimmers dumped into the ocean without life-jackets. Sad…for the newbies, but most important, it is sad for the consumers, even though most of the time they do not know that they may be dealing with a rank amateur with a big professional-looking marketing plan/web site. But it’s a great system for the CREAcrats and all of the other related bureaucrats feeding off of the never-ending stream of pre-flameout newbie contributions to the (their) cause for relevancy. The inverted pyramid scheme lives on. The salaried seventy-five-thousand per year nine-to-fivers really have no desire to stop the good ship lollipop from continuing to sail merrily along on calm waters, quite apart from the stormy seas of reality that the newbie field agents must daily fight as they slowly lose the battle that is actually prescribed for eighty percent of them to lose. New blood; new money for dues etc.

        It may be time for a dictator of good will to take over, one of strong mind ‘and’ strong backbone. I hereby nominate myself. I have a strong backbone. Strong mind? Hmmm. But that ‘is’ still, at least, debatable. What’s not debatable is the fact that organized real estate is a failed organization of biblical proportions. The fix is in; it always has been. The system creates a never-ending stream of has-beens. Bravo!

        How many of you would like to see this disaster upended and properly set straight? I’m ready to kick ass. You all hold the power, the power of the purse. Flex your muscles. Cut the bastards off. Kick ’em to the curb. Let them try to become professional Realtors. Most would not touch that with a ten-foot pole. Gee, I wonder why not?

        I tried to be somewhat politically correct, but the end result escaped me…again. Sigh.

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