Terrace realtors anticipate “business as usual” in the market here, despite the B.C. government’s plan to overhaul the province’s real estate industry due to unethical practices.
The BC Northern Real Estate Board supported the government’s decision to turn regulation over to a dedicated superintendent of real estate and increase industry oversight.
“For the BC Northern Real Estate board, we feel this isn’t a bad thing,” said board vice-president John Evans.
“I think a lot of this stems from issues they’ve had in the Lower Mainland. It has not been a northern issue. However, we’ve all been impacted and we’ve all been painted with the same brush. A realtor is a realtor regardless of where you’re working.”
The Real Estate Council of British Columbia has been the industry’s regulatory body since 2005. But two weeks ago, premier Christy Clark announced that disciplinary powers and oversight of the industry would be turned over to the provincial government.
These changes came after immense pressure was put on Clark’s government regarding soaring housing prices in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, part of which is blamed on some realtors operating unethically there.
The average price of a detached home in the Lower Mainland is currently over $1 million; in comparison, the average sale price of homes sold in Terrace from January to May of this year was $323,291.
“I really do think it’ll just be business as usual,” Evans said.
“After reading the report, I get the recommendations had to be made because there were some unethical agents out there, but anybody who attempted that sort of practice in a small market like Terrace, Kitimat, or Prince Rupert would be a death-wish for your career. You wouldn’t last very long.”
Evans said it would be a “death-wish” because in a smaller market such as Terrace, a realtor’s reputation is more important because there is less people in the community and word gets around.
He added that the kind of misconduct occurring in the Lower Mainland, which might allow some realtors to slip through the disciplinary cracks, wouldn’t be tolerated here.
“I’ve worked in the Terrace market for 30 years this year, and that’s not the way local realtors operate,” Evans said.
Terrace Real Estate Company owner and managing broker Shannon McAllister also said she doesn’t anticipate much of a change here either.
“Business should be as usual. Nothing is changing in the sense of what we have to be doing as an agent or a broker,” she said.
McAllister added that there is already greater transparency and regulation in place in northern real estate because the brokerages tend to be smaller. She cited her own company, where she said she oversees four agents and has constant communication with them.
“You have a brokerage down in Vancouver, say, that has 400 agents and the brokers probably don’t even know who their agents are,” McAllister said when giving an example of a lack of oversight.
Some of the issues the government is attempting to address includes removing dual-agency representation, eradicating the practice of “shadow flipping,” improving transparency and increasing fines for realtor misconduct to $250,000.
McAllister said that type of misconduct is not a rampant issue in northern B.C. and the new regulations could improve client-realtor relations and build trust.
“The more rules and the more we have to be accountable to our contracts, to our clients, I think that’s a wonderful thing. I think it’ll weed out the garbage that shouldn’t be agents – that are there just for commission and their sole benefit,” McAllister said.
Evans said that while he didn’t anticipate regulatory changes would have much of an impact in Terrace, he did say the removal of dual-agency representation could pose some concerns.
“The elimination of dual-agency could mean that the buyer is left out of agency services,” Evans said.
He said that in the past Terrace realtors have been able to represent both buyer and seller during a transaction. But that dual-agency has been abused in the Lower Mainland, with some agents being privy to the motives of both buy and seller and not acting in the best interest of their clients.
“I don’t know what the elimination of dual-agency is going to look like. It doesn’t make sense that if a client calls me to list their home that I have to say to the buyer ‘Sorry, I can’t help you,’” Evans said.
While he acknowledged unethical practices, he said dual-agency has not been much of a problem in the north where the client-to-realtor ratio is relatively small.
Sheila Love from the Terrace office of Remax Coast Mountains agreed that the government’s removal of dual-agency could be problematic.
“It really is going to affect our business up in this area if they do away with limited dual-agency,” Love said.
“Hopefully they’ll take into consideration that there are small towns that have this situation where you only have a few offices or a few realtors. What about the community that has one realtor? What are you going to do, get a lawyer or somebody else to show the house and write the offer up?”