In Response: Real estate regulation changes easy to misinterpret

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By SUSAN DE STEIN

There is great potential to misinterpret some of the upcoming changes to real estate regulations that are coming into effect on June 15, about which the government has done a very poor job of communicating. 

While I absolutely support Marianne Hobbs’ call for consumers to voice their opposition to the new regulations in her May 30 opinion piece in the Driftwood, I would like to clarify a few points.

Mrs. Hobbs stated that consumers can no longer choose their own realtor. This lack of choice, however, occurs only in some situations, one of which is when the consumer is interested in viewing and wants to make an offer on one of their chosen realtor’s listings.

For the most part, buyers can deal with the realtor of their choice. They cannot, under the new rules, however, ask a listing realtor to act as their agent in the transaction on that listing. But far from having to “import” another agent (as she put it “say from Nanaimo”) — that buyer can choose from any number of other realtors on Salt Spring, who are very well acquainted with Salt Spring.

After June 15, realtors may no longer act in what has been called “limited dual agency.”  That is, on June 15, a realtor can only act as an agent for either the buyer or seller in a transaction. Where the realtor has had both seller and buyer as a client in the past, there are two choices (and both buyer and seller must agree on those choices). One client (more likely the buyer) may opt to be un-represented in the transaction, in which case the listing realtor is allowed to fill in paperwork and perform some of the functions of a realtor, but cannot act as that participants’ agent. Or, as Marianne Hobbs pointed out, the second choice is that one participant in the transaction (again, most likely the buyer) may opt to use another realtor as their agent. Here on Salt Spring it’s not likely they will need to go so far afield as Nanaimo, since there are qualified realtors on Salt Spring who can perform that function. 

To another one of Ms. Hobbs’ points, in my view, it isn’t the lawyer, in fact, who judges whether the deal is in his client’s best interests. The lawyer can and often does advise about the legalities of a transaction, including the interpretation of covenants, rights-of-way, and other notations and items on title. It is the lawyer who facilitates the conveyancing of the property. But I’ve never known a lawyer to judge whether a deal is in his client’s “best interests.”

It’s my experience as a listing realtor that many buyers in the past have chosen to deal with the listing realtor as a limited dual agent, as they believe that this individual knows more about the listing. 

Of course buyers I have dealt with over a long period of time also want me to show them all suitable listings, including mine. My listing clients hope and expect that I will introduce the property to buyers I am working with. Under the new regime, while I can show my listings to clients I am working with, I do so under the understanding that I am not and cannot be their agent when showing them my listings and in the event they decide to offer on any of them. My interactions and communications will be limited and will not include advice. Clients will be informed of this limited role from the start. It is at that point that the client can decide to be unrepresented, or choose another realtor to lead them through the transaction. 

There is no question that the new Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate, under direction from the B.C. government, is in many instances taking away consumers’ ability to decide who they want to represent them. The rationale for these changes, I believe, lies in the actions of a few bad apples, primarily in the Vancouver market. The new rules are, at their core, politically motivated and not based on an understanding of how the real estate industry works, nor do they factor in the reality of our unique and small marketplace. They certainly do not take into consideration the professionalism and integrity of realtors on Salt Spring and all over this province.

There are now some documents available that explain these changes, but we are also hoping that the government embarks on a program to educate all consumers as to what they can expect from their realtors. 

Yes, we are neighbours and friends who support local charities, do business in our shops and coach your kids. And yes, we would love public support to oppose these changes, although the time for changes may be past (or up to a subsequent government to undo).

But whether we are able to lobby to change these new regulations, or we simply have to adapt to them, we will continue to be professional, represent you to the best of our abilities, act with integrity and, of course, adhere to regulations governing our industry. 

The writer is a Pemberton Holmes realtor on Salt Spring Island.

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