For all the good people who follow this column and enjoy reading it (and I mean both of you), I would like to clarify that my retirement will officially be in June. This being the April issue, I have three columns left to write. I have been thinking that if I have anything important to write about or get off my chest, I should do it now. So here goes.
First off, I am often teased about how many words I use. I admit it. I have never met a short paragraph in my life. My dear friend and REM’s former marketing director, Dennis Rock, once said, “Heino doesn’t just send you an email, he’ll write you an opuscule.” Dennis is now retired and living the Life of Riley. I miss his humour around the office.
If I was to try to be succinct and sum up my thoughts about the Canadian real estate community in as few words as possible, I would simply say this: It is in good shape. It is in good shape for one simple reason: integrity. It’s all in the numbers.
How many agents are licensed to sell real estate in Canada? A reasonable guess would be between 150,000 to 170,000 people. Not all in that number are active, nor are they all members of CREA, but most are. All the licensing in the country is under the jurisdiction of 10 provinces. That is not an unwieldy group of regulators.
Some alleged experts say there are about a dozen large real estate companies in the country, depending on your definition of large. I think it’s about 15. Most real estate transactions in this country are done by those companies. That means there is no monopoly on real estate transactions in Canada by anybody. There are a reasonable number of companies to license and regulate. That makes it simpler to manage and to make sure that all adhere to rules of etiquette, operate ethically and conduct their business under the law of the land.
There are of course, thousands of independent real estate companies and brokers who are also ethical and honest. And there are outliers – cheaters and scoundrels in this business. Show me any business that is squeaky clean. There aren’t any. Even the Government of Canada and your local police department messes up and has scam artists in its midst.
We are getting better all the time at catching the cheaters and bad guys. I believe the real estate business in Canada leads the way. There are a lot of stories about bad people in this business and there will be more in the future. You have to admire or at the very least, acknowledge that when someone is caught doing unethical business in the real estate community, it is put right out front in the press with no one in the industry trying to cover it up. This business takes the shame of one of its own and holds it right up in front of everybody as an example that all will be done to eradicate that behaviour.
At the end of the day the real estate industry in Canada compares well in terms of integrity to any industry you care to name. One of the reasons for that is that with over a dozen large companies doing most of the business, there is a strict adherence to integrity and honesty. Not one of these companies wants to be painted with the brush of dishonesty and they will do all they can internally to prevent it. They police themselves and there are enough in the community to police each other, unlike a police department or a government agency like the CRA that polices themselves without a competitor.
The associations within organized real estate in Canada all answer to the people who pay their fees. None of them are closed shops. Anybody in this business who wants to be involved in the administration and ethics of their association on any level can do so. Anybody who is a member of CREA can be the president of the whole shebang. As long as you don’t cheat.
If I was the boss of it all I would run a public campaign to tell the country about the honesty and integrity that this industry thrives on. I am retiring in June however, so I will simply ask you to do it.