The following was submitted to REM by the Real Estate Regulators of Canada.
The entire real estate industry changed in a matter of weeks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While there continues to be movement in the housing market, this is not business as usual. Government measures and health guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 vary across the nation and are evolving daily. This is uncharted territory for the industry, but regulators, brokerages and salespeople have risen to the challenge and adapted to support consumers in their real estate transactions.
Real estate regulators have a crucial role to play in how the industry adapts and pivots through the stages of the pandemic and how it recovers afterwards. Now more than ever, we need trusted sources acting in the public interest to advocate and inform consumers while providing tools and overseeing industry standards. Real Estate Regulators of Canada, a collaborative forum that enhances regulators’ effectiveness to achieve and sustain regulatory excellence, is tracking the evolving situations, measures and actions across the country.
Our governments and health officials have implemented physical distancing measures and restricted business operations to keep Canadians safe. Real estate regulators across the nation have echoed these directions to protect consumers and real estate professionals.
In-person open houses have been banned in many provinces, and regulators have strongly recommended that real estate professionals cease holding them in provinces in which they have not been banned. Regulators continue to provide guidance on showings, digital alternatives and tips on discussing implications with clients in order to limit in-person interactions to when absolutely necessary.
On behalf of provinces, regulators enforce rules that real estate professionals must follow while ensuring that consumers are protected and informed and often provide guidance on leading practices to achieve compliance. During regular times, an effectively regulated real estate market is crucial to the Canadian economy. The pandemic adds a complexity to existing compliance obligations. Regulation becomes even more important to maintaining consumer confidence in the profession, during the peak of the pandemic, as well as when each province begins “reopening”.
Adapting to a virtual world:
Agility has been essential to navigating these unique circumstances. Regulators are creating tools, answering questions, sharing and posting resources frequently to help the public and real estate professionals make informed decisions.
Many regulators have increased and diversified virtual learning offerings to keep up with the growing demand for professional development, which has seen increased interest from professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some have even implemented new courses and webinars for non-registrants to help brokerage employees learn more about industry regulations.
Our industry’s future leaders, currently enrolled in real estate education programs, can continue learning through offerings that were already online or that have been adapted for the current digital environment. Program administrators are working diligently to implement virtual solutions for exams that meet strict proctoring standards.
Transforming the industry to enhance consumer protection:
To keep Canadians safe and follow the guidance of health authorities, real estate professionals and businesses have amplified their use of online tools, embracing the industry’s ongoing digital transformation. Solutions that are convenient and save time, such as virtual tours and digital documents, may be here to stay, but consumers will still want to see and experience an in-person showing before investing. Health and safety must remain top priorities during all interactions.
Regulators across the country are keeping their eyes on what’s next as provinces work to launch their reopening plans. Regulators continue to explore ways to evolve and enhance consumer protection to ensure real estate professionals and brokers are in a strong position to adapt their businesses for the future.
One thing that is not changing: We are all in this together.