Real estate industry changes are coming our way in Ontario (WOO HOO!). It’s been 15 years since our Real Estate and Business Brokers Act (REBBA) has been updated so it’s about time! In case you forgot (although we hope you didn’t!), REBBA consists of the rules and standards that we, as registrants, must adhere to while trading in real estate.
Everyone can agree that A LOT has changed in the past 15 years (hellloooo legalized marijuana). Changes that have impacted our industry include the introduction of e-signatures, the increase to the number of registrants trading in our province, reliance on social media, introduction of new brokerage business models, changes to mortgage rules, the list goes on. As a result, we welcome changes to REBBA with open arms!
According to the Government of Ontario’s website, rules and regulations focused on the following themes are being reviewed:
- Consumer Protection: consumers have been asking for greater transparency in the offer process. Bidding wars have become a common occurrence in many of our markets and the fact that buyers do not have all of the information available to make an informed decision can make the process very frustrating, uncertain and inconsistent from home sale to home sale. How the government will choose to increase the level of transparency (if at all) is still up for debate. An open offer process where buyers see the details of other offers would be the most direct way to handle this concern, however, there are a lot of details that would need to be worked out prior to making such a significant change.
Currently, in a competing offer situation, REBBA states that the listing brokerage “shall disclose the number of competing written offers to every person who is making one of the competing offers, but shall not disclose the substance of the competing offers.” (O. Reg. 580/05, s. 26 (1)) If the Government chose to create a more transparent system, this rule would need to be modified as a result.
We believe that choice is also an important piece of any new initiative. Ultimately, consumers should have the right to choose the way in which they sell their home. A more transparent approach might not be the best approach for certain properties and consumers should be provided the choice when it comes to such an important decision.
- Enhanced Professionalism: the Government wants to review the educational and ethical requirements to ensure they reflect the realities of today’s industry. RECO has started to introduce their new salesperson education plan and from the sounds of things, it will better reflect today’s industry vs. the current program. Through mandatory in-class real estate simulations (how cool is that?), potential registrants can gain a first-hand perspective of the day to day of a real estate salesperson. Innovation and technology are showcased throughout this new education program through virtual classrooms and a knowledge management system – an online data bank of information that can be accessed from anywhere to support potential new and existing registrants. In addition, the learning path has been better structured to mimic the flow of a real estate transaction (makes sense to us!). All in all, a great start to the path towards enhanced professionalism in our industry.
Another area that we believe may enhance professionalism is a brokerage outreach program administered by RECO. Educating registrants on the rules that impact our day to day lives takes constant communication and work. Each and every transaction is unique and sometimes registrants need to be reminded of the proper ways to conduct themselves when faced with certain situations. Through personal contact at brokerage meetings, live social media events that invite registrants to share their perspectives and more open forum opportunities throughout the province, registrants can feel as though they have a voice and stay updated and educated on the standards and rules of our industry.
- Modern Regulation: in RECO’s Strategic Plan, a focus on forward thinking initiatives, embracing technology and data and ultimately empowering consumers with the information they need is the intent. Allowing RECO to make more frequent changes to the act in anticipation and in response to the changes in the market will be an advantage for our industry as well as for consumers. Just think – we could actually update REBBA every 2, 3, 5 years vs. every 15!
- Strong Business Environment: what rules are impacting business viability? For one, the rules that prevent salespersons and brokers to operate as professional corporations need to be change. At this time, registrants in Ontario cannot incorporate their business even though other professions such as accountants, lawyers, insurance brokers are given this option. In addition, salespersons in six other provinces across Canada are given the opportunity to incorporate so why not us?
The Government is seeking feedback from registrants and consumers until March 15th. You can complete the online survey (which mainly focuses on the transparency theme) or send your comments (500 words or less is the limit so don’t write a novel!) via mail to: [email protected]. We all know that updates to REBBA will significantly improve our industry – both from a consumer protection standpoint as well as helping registrants do their job effectively and successfully. We submitted our feedback – now it’s your turn!