Real estate association members ratify deal giving consumers wider choice

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Delegates from Canada’s 101 local real estate boards Sunday ratified a deal worked out by the federal Competition Bureau and the real-estate industry.

It would allow consumers to choose what services they want from their agent when selling their homes, and to pay for only those services.

The deal was reached after months of negotiations between the competition watchdog and the Canadian Real Estate Association that represents some 100,000 realtors.

The bureau chief was quick to praise the ratification.

“I am pleased that CREA members have voted in favour of this agreement,” said commissioner Melanie Aitken. “For Canadian homeowners, it ensures that they will have the freedom to choose which services they want from a real-estate agent and to pay for only those services.”

Association president Georges Pahud also welcomed the vote.

“We are pleased that after careful consideration and reflection, real-estate boards and associations from across Canada have endorsed the agreement,” Pahud said.

Under the deal, the Canadian Real Estate Association has agreed that its rules as well as those of its members should not deny or discriminate against realtors wishing to offer mere posting services.

The Competition Bureau has been pressuring the association to change rules it calls “anti-competitive” on behalf of realtors and consumers who want more flexible services.

“This 10-year agreement brings a close to a long process of negotiation with the Competition Bureau and will allow CREA and realtors to do what they do best — help people with the biggest financial decision of their lives, buying and selling a home in these challenging economic times,” said Pahud.

But experts say the doors to lower-cost services won’t be thrust open overnight because the industry is dominated by traditional agents who are reluctant to change their business models.

Realtors currently operate on the principle that selling agents will split the standard five per cent commission with the buyer’s agent.

Canadian Real Estate Association members voted on amendments to the organization’s rules in March that were expected to appease the Competition Bureau, but the watchdog took issue with a clause in the amendments that said the changes are subject to the rules of local boards.

The watchdog said it would settle for nothing less than a legally binding agreement so that the association couldn’t change its rules back on a whim.

With Sunday’s ratification, the deal will be legally binding as of today and will remain in effect for 10 years, with hefty penalties for any violation.

The Canadian Press

Pam Martin of Invis, Mortgage Broker – Kelowna,Vernon, Penticton, Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada