Verbal contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on

I’m a bit disturbed by the increasing occurrences of verbal negotiations in the real estate business in Saskatoon.

Verbal proposals are most often brought forward at the counter offer stage with comments like, “We really don’t want to waste your time, so would you speak with your client and find out if X is acceptable to them?”

Recently, an agent tried to sell me on the idea of presenting a complete verbal offer to purchase on one of our listings. She said, “My client has to leave town right away. Would you check with your seller to find out if they would take X?”

To her credit, at least she was clear and honest that she was concerned about wasting her time, and her clients, and not trying to convince me that a verbal offer was a courtesy she was extending to us, so as not to waste our time. Still, my reply was, “No, I won’t, but if you’d be kind enough to put it in writing I’d be happy to present it to them immediately.”

Why? Verbal negotiations are reckless and unprofessional. Where a real estate agent is involved, they’re actually illegal.

Section 58 (1) of Saskatchewan’s Real Estate Act

An offer to purchase obtained by a registrant:

(a) is to be in writing, dated and signed by the buyer in the presence of a
witness; and
(b) is to clearly show, prior to execution by the buyer:
(i) the date on which the offer is made;
(ii) the names and addresses of the buyer and seller;
(iii) the street address or legal description of the real estate;
(iv) the price offered by the buyer and the terms and conditions of the
offer;
(v) the amount of deposit, if any, made at the time of the offer and
whether or not that deposit is to form part of the price;
(vi) a brief description and list of any chattels that are to be included in
the price;
(vii) the date of possession by the buyer and whether possession is to be
vacant or otherwise;
(viii) the date of adjustments;
(ix) the time and date by which the offer is to be accepted;
(x) the name, address and telephone number of the brokerage; and
(xi) any other information prescribed in the bylaws.

We get paid good money to represent our clients and to protect their interests. Creating binding agreements, and avoiding misunderstanding and the squabbles that arise from them is part of that. With the standard forms that are provided for us it literally takes ten minutes to complete an offer to purchase. Web based forms can be tweaked and resubmitted for presentation in seconds. Surely, doing it right can’t be considered “a waste if time.” This is, in part, what agents are paid for. Trying to bridge the gap that exists between a willing buyer and seller is never a waste of time when the proper procedures are followed, even if the time spent only makes us aware of what isn’t presently possible.

If your agent is suggesting a verbal negotiation he or she either lacks respect for, or knowledge of the laws that govern our business. Either way, that should get you thinking.

Samuel Goldwyn said, “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”

Samuel Goldwyn was right!

Let’s do this right. Let’s do it in writing.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions. All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

MLS rules and CREA will go before a Competition Tribunal

Competition Commissioner Melanie Aitken has moved to bring the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) before a Competition Tribunal to seek a ruling that would force CREA to change MLS rules that she believes limit competition and harm consumers.

Following a lengthy investigation, the Competition Bureau announced in early November that they believed some of CREA’s rules limit the options that real estate agents might otherwise provide consumers in marketing their homes if the rules didn’t exist. At the time, CREA indicated that they were interested in working towards a settlement and apparently; discussions have been ongoing since that time. In a Globe and Mail open forum today, CREA President Dale Ripplinger claimed that the two parties were “close” to reaching an agreement that would settle the dispute, and expressed that he was “surprised” by the bureau’s announcement that the case would head to a Competition Tribunal for resolution.

An overview of the issues identified buy the bureau as problematic can be found here.The Competition Bureau’s release on this matter is here.
CREA’s response to the Competition Bureau’s move is here.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @norm_fisher.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

How to become a real estate agent in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

The educational model for becoming a real estate agent in the province of Saskatchewan changed on July 1, 2014. This post outlines the new requirements for entry with the most recent costs.

All requirements and prices are valid at the date of publication and are subject to change, without notice, at the discretion of the organizations and associations responsible.

Provincial legislation in Saskatchewan states that anyone wishing to represent members of the public in a real estate trade in Saskatchewan must be registered. The Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission (SREC), an independent, non-government agency, responsible for regulating the real estate industry in Saskatchewan, mandates qualifications for registration.

First of all, people wishing to become registered to trade in real estate as a sales person must have completed Grade 12, or equivalent.

Secondly, prospective registrants must complete a home study course known as Real Estate as a Professional Career, which is offered by the Association of Saskatchewan Realtors® (ASR). Enrolled students have one full year to complete the program. Before the conclusion of the one-year period they must present themselves for an examination and obtain a mark of at least 70%.

Once they have completed Real Estate as a Professional Career, prospective registrants must complete the following specialty courses.

  • Residential Real Estate as a Professional Career
  • Commercial Real Estate as a Professional Career
  • Farm Real Estate as a Professional Career

All three of the specialty programs are offered by the ASR on a home study basis. Enrolled students have two full years to complete all three specialty programs. Before the conclusion of the two-year period they must present themselves for an examination on each program and obtain a mark of at least 70%.

Students wishing to practice in the field of property management must also complete the following course. The cost of this course is the same as the other three specialty courses outlined below.

  • Property Management as a Professional Career

Once a person completes the mandatory courses they qualify to apply for registration to trade in real estate within the province of Saskatchewan. An application for registration as a licensed salesperson, signed by an employing broker, must be made to the SREC within two years of successfully completing the chosen specialty course. Applicants must produce proof of having obtained a Grade 12 or equivalent, and a completed criminal record check.

Cost GST Total
MandatoryEducational Courses
Real Estate as a Professional Career $1,332.38 $66.62 $1,399.00
Examination Fee (first attempt in included – $155 for additional) 0 0 0
Residential Real Estate as a Professional Career $760.95 $38.05 $799.00
Examination Fee (first attempt in included – $155 for additional) 0 0 0
Commercial Real Estate as a Professional Career $760.95 $38.05 $799.00
Examination Fee (first attempt in included – $155 for additional) 0 0 0
Farm Real Estate as a Professional Career $760.95 $38.05 $799.00
Examination Fee (first attempt in included – $155 for additional) 0 0 0
Total Cost for Mandatory Educational Courses $3,796.00
Provincial Licensing and Related
Registration for Salesperson License $330.00 $0 $330.00
Mandatory Errors and Omissions Premium $255.00 $0 $255.00
Real Estate Assurance Fund Levy $100.00 $0 $100.00
Total Cost for Provincial Licensing and Related $685.00
Other Incidental Costs
Criminal record check $25.00
Total estimated cost to become a real estate agent in SK. $4,506.00

 

You can register for these courses online or at the office of the Association of Saskatchewan REALTORS® located at 2811 Estey Drive in Saskatoon.

In addition, within each one-year registration renewal period, all registrants are required to complete mandatory continuing education known as the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Program approved by the Commission and provided by the ASR.

Becoming a REALTOR®

The majority of the real estate companies in Saskatchewan, particularly those located in the urban areas are REALTORS®, and all of the sales people that they employ must also be REALTORS®. In addition to expanding the potential opportunities that might exist for a real estate registrant, choosing to practice as a REALTOR® also provides access to the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®), a sophisticated system for sharing property information and commissions with other REALTOR® members. In a nutshell, the MLS® provides agents with easy access to a large inventory of homes for sale, and access to a large number of sales people for the homes an agent may have listed for sale. Agents use this system to cooperate with each other for the aforementioned benefits and typically share commissions when they successfully bring a buyer and seller together to complete a real estate transaction.

Becoming a REALTOR® requires a registrant to become a member of the Saskatoon Region Association of Realtors®, the Association of Saskatchewan Realtors®, and the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Members must commit to conduct their business in accordance with the rules and regulations of each organization, and the Code of Ethics of the CREA.

Here are the costs associated with becoming a member of these organizations.

Cost GST Total
Real Estate Association Joining Dues
Saskatoon Region Association of REALTORS® $300.00 $15.00 $315.00
Association of Saskatchewan REALTORS® $330.00 $16.50 $346.50
Canadian Real Estate Association $200.00 $10.00 $210.00
Total Cost for Real Estate Association Joining Dues $840.00
Annual Real Estate Association Dues
Saskatoon Region Association of REALTORS® $50.00 $2.50 $52.50
Association of Saskatchewan REALTORS® $330.00 $16.50 $346.50
Canadian Real Estate Association (Annual dues & tech fee) $310.00 $15.50 $325.50
Total Cost for Annual Real Estate Association Dues $724.50
Post Licensing Education Requirements
Saskatoon Region Association of REALTORS® New Member Course $549.00 $27.45 $576.45
Total additional costs to become a REALTOR® $2,140.95

That’s a brief overview of what it takes to become a real estate agent in Saskatchewan, and to become a REALTOR® in Saskatoon. If you have questions, or are interested in exploring a career in Saskatoon real estate I’d be happy to hear from you. My contact information is here.

Other resources

Association of Saskatchewan Realtors® website
Association of Saskatchewan REALTORS Career Guide (a must read)
Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission website
Canadian Real Estate Association website
Royal LePage Real Estate Career website

Please note that the estimated costs outlined above were valid at the date of publication and are subject to change, without notice, at the discretion of the billing organizations.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Vidorra

Canada’s Competition Bureau concludes CREA’s rules are anti-competitive

There’s a good chance that you’ve come across news stories like this one published in today’s Star Phoenix about the conclusions reached by the Competition Bureau of Canada following their investigation of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), owners of the MLS® trademark in Canada. The Competition Bureau has ruled that some of CREA’s policies that govern the operations of MLS® systems restrict consumer choice and limit the scope of alternative business models, which might be viable and beneficial to consumers if the policies didn’t exist. CREA has indicated to its members that it disagrees with the Bureau’s views.

For the record, CREA is a national association of REALTOR® members. All REALTORS® working in Canada are members of the association. CREA provides governance for the real estate industry at the national level and works in the interest of REALTOR® members. While I am a member of CREA, I do not a represent the organization and I have no authority to speak on their behalf. The following post reflects my opinions and understandings of what has transpired to date, based on a letter to members from CREA president Dale Ripplinger.

Here is a bit of a backgrounder and an overview of the policies, which the Competition Bureau has challenged CREA on.

In 2007, the membership of the Canadian Real Estate Association approved the “Three Pillars of the MLS® Mark” and Interpretations.

The Three Pillars of the MLS® Mark

1)    Membership – Only REALTORS® may place a listing on a Board/Association’s MLS® System.
2)    Agency – A listing REALTOR® must act as agent for the seller to sell the property and to assist the seller throughout the entire time of the listing contract.
3)    Compensation to Cooperating Broker – The listing REALTOR® agrees to pay to the cooperating REALTOR® compensation for the cooperative selling of the property.

The Interpretations of the Three Pillars of the MLS® Mark

1)    The listing REALTOR® shall receive and present all offers and counter offers to the seller.
2)    The listing REALTOR® shall be available to provide professional advice and counsel to the seller on all offers and counter offers unless otherwise directed by the seller in writing.
3)    The mere posting of property information in an MLS® system is contrary to CREA’s Rules. A “mere posting” occurs when the listing agreement relieves the listing member of any obligations under the Rules, including the obligation that the listing REALTOR® remain the agent of the seller throughout the term of the listing contract.
4)    The listing REALTOR® is responsible and accountable for the accuracy of information submitted to a Board/Association for inclusion in the Board’s MLS® system, and the Board/Association is responsible for ensuring that the data submitted to it meets reasonable standards of quality.
5)    Only REALTORS® are permitted to display the MLS® trademarks in signage, advertising, etc.
6)    Only the listing REALTOR® name(s) and contact information may appear on REALTOR.ca. The seller’s name or contact information shall not appear on REALTOR.ca or in the public remarks section of the MLS® system.
7)    In cases where a Board permits listings in which the seller has reserved the right to sell the property himself/herself, that fact shall be specified in the Board’s MLS® database.

The same year that these articles were passed, CREA was served a Section 11 Order, an investigatory order requiring CREA to produce documents related to CREA’s rules and the operation of an MLS® System. CREA has been engaged in regular discussions with the Bureau since the issuance of the Section 11 Order.

The Bureau ultimately concluded that specific aspects of CREA’s Three Pillars of the MLS® Mark and the accompanying Interpretations prevent innovative business models, and the potential “unbundling” of real estate services that could allow sellers to play a larger role in the home selling process, even while utilizing the limited services of a REALTOR®.

Specifically, the Competition Bureau has asked CREA to remove the “Agency” pillar, as well as interpretations 1, 3 and 6. Under the Bureau’s proposed remedy, the other two “pillars” would remain, and so would Interpretations 2, 4, 5 and 7.

It seems apparent, based on the articles targeted for removal that the Bureau would like to see REALTORS® having the option to offer limited services that do not bind the REALTOR® to meet fiduciary obligations that are normally assumed as a result of an agency relationship. Those obligations include accountability, confidentiality, full disclosure, competent care, obedience, loyalty, as well as protection and promotion of the client’s interests. If these obligations were removed, a REALTOR® could, on behalf of a seller, list a property for sale on an MLS® and then allow the seller to perform all of the other services normally provided by agents, for themselves. Some REALTORS have attempted to provide this minimum level of service and claim to have been ejected from membership as a result.

In the past, CREA has taken the position that “agency” is a key component of the service that a REALTOR® provides, and seemingly continues to believe that. I believe, that CREA would contend that all REALTORS® have the freedom to choose what levels of service they might provide to a seller, and determine the fee that they will charge for that service, but that the REALTOR® should continue to be bound as an agent, owing fiduciary duties of care to the seller.

CREA has also expressed concern that removing this particular pillar does not relieve the REALTOR® from agency obligations, as a matter of law and regulation. Even if the agency component were removed from the “pillars,” provincial and federal law and regulation would still bind REALTORS®. In fact, some of the interpretations which would remain if CREA agreed to remove those in question clearly imply the existence of an agency relationship, namely articles 2 and 4. In essence, the concern seems to be that REALTORS® could find themselves offering substantially limited services, which ultimately expose them to greater risk and liability resulting from a breach of fiduciary duty.

The Bureau has taken the position that if CREA does not remove the restrictions noted above, the Commissioner of Competition will initiate an application before the Competition Tribunal, a judicial body, which has authority under Canadian law to issue monetary penalties and prohibition orders.

CREA’s Board of Directors has agreed to work with the Competition Bureau towards a settlement, which would be presented to its membership for approval.

CREA is in the process of scheduling consultations with Boards and Associations across Canada to discuss the issue further.

Only time will tell how this all unfolds but we can hope that wherever it goes, it leads us forward and results in improvements to the real estate industry, for the consumer of real estate services.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Real estate geeks can follow our daily updates on Twitter @Norm_Fisher.

Our Saskatoon home search tool offers MLS® listings represented by all real estate brands, presented with more detail than you’ll find anywhere else. Check it out here.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate

Discriminatory real estate ad attracts media attention

This post makes the “just for fun” category for the featured video’s surprise ending. If you start the video, please see it through to the end.

By way of Brendan King’s Twitter stream.

As a licensed Asian, I found this particular misunderstanding quite amusing and so did the other Asians in my office, but discriminatory practices are no laughing matter and fair treatment for all human beings is a cornerstone of a civilized society.

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code was written to protect people from discriminatory practices. The following are “prohibited grounds” for discrimination under the Code;

(i) religion;
(ii) creed;
(iii) marital status;
(iv) family status;
(v) sex;
(vi) sexual orientation;
(vii) disability;
(viii) age;
(ix) colour;
(x) ancestry;
(xi) nationality;
(xii) place of origin;
(xiii) race or perceived race; and
(xiv) receipt of public assistance.

Section 10 and section 11 of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code deal specifically with discriminatory practices in the sale or leasing of real estate.

Discrimination in the purchase of property prohibited

10(1) No person shall, on the basis of a prohibited ground:

(a) deny to any person or class of persons the opportunity to purchase any commercial unit or any place of dwelling that is advertised or in any way represented as being available for sale;

(b) deny to any person or class of persons the opportunity to purchase or otherwise acquire land or an interest in land; or

(c) discriminate against any person or class of persons with respect to any term of the purchase or other acquisition of any commercial unit or any place of dwelling, land or any interest in land.

(2) Repealed. 2007, c.39, s.4.

(3) Nothing in subsection (1) prohibits the sale, the offering for sale or the advertising for sale of a place of dwelling for occupancy by persons over 55 years of age exclusively.

Discrimination in occupancy of commercial unit or housing accommodation is prohibited

11(1) No person, directly or indirectly, alone or with another, or by the interposition of another shall, on the basis of a prohibited ground:

(a) deny to any person or class of persons occupancy of any commercial unit or any housing accommodation; or

(b) discriminate against any person or class of persons with respect to any term of occupancy of any commercial unit or any housing accommodation.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to discrimination on the basis of the sex of a person with respect to housing accommodation, where the occupancy of all the housing accommodation in a building, except that of the owner or the owner’s family, is restricted to individuals who are of the same sex.

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to discrimination on the basis of the sex or sexual orientation of a person with respect to the renting or leasing of any dwelling unit in any housing accommodation that is composed of not more than two dwelling units, where the owner of the housing accommodation or the owner’s family resides in one of the two dwelling units.

(4) Nothing in subsection (1) prohibits the renting or leasing, the offering for rent or lease or the advertising for rent or lease, of any housing accommodation for occupancy by persons over 55 years of age exclusively.

The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code is here.

I’m always happy to answer your Saskatoon real estate questions.  All of my contact info is here. Please feel free to call or email.

Follow our daily updates on Twitter @Norm_Fisher.

Norm Fisher
Royal LePage Saskatoon Real Estate