Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do The Time
Let me start by saying unequivocally that I try to follow the rules. I tell my agents…work hard, make money, do the right thing, stay out of trouble and when in doubt, ask. These ideas have served me well. I suppose that’s why I get incredibly frustrated when others can’t do the same. I mean, is it too much to ask that we all compete with each other on an equal playing field? The reality is that there are plenty of opportunities to create an advantage in your business either through advanced technology, perhaps some service advantage or maybe it’s price cutting, and I should add here that I have no problem with any model that tries something different as long as it follows the laws that have been put in place.
But here’s the problem….lots of agents and companies are content to live outside the law because they know they either won’t get caught, they just don’t care or know that no one is going to turn them in. REBBA 2002 created the rules and regulations for which we must all adhere to and they are supposed to be administered by The Real Estate Council of Ontario. For the most part, the rules are not open for interpretation. They are black and white, not varying shades of grey. For instance the advertising guidelines are pretty clear. Display your true and legal name, your designation, contact information and above all clearly identify the company you work for (not place it in a footnote somewhere on another page). If you have taken your RECO update then you are aware that advertising guidelines form a major section of the course. So why is it that, on a daily basis, I come across advertising, whether it be in a website, on a sign, a flyer or business card that doesn’t comply? Simple. Agents know they can get away with it. They know Someone is not going to turn them in for not clearly identifying who they work for. It’s petty and a waste of time and the offender, if found guilty is likely to get a minor slap on the wrist or a $100 fine. Big deal. Call it the cost of doing business and quiet frankly does anyone out there have time to launch a complaint for a minor infraction? No. It’s hardly worth the time and to be quite honest, in my personal experience, many of my friends are breaking small laws like that here and there.
The truth is, I know some people who are breaking some pretty big rules too. Small companies that operate unregistered branch offices, agents that pay bird dog fees or knowingly disclose pertinent facts about competing offers. Frankly the list could go on and on and RECO is as much to blame because they won’t do anything unless you make a formal complaint. That means putting yourself out there, something that prevents most complaints from happening. So when an agent shows me a marketing idea that clearly breaks advertising guidelines I tell them that we don’t win THAT way. Their response? Well, so and so is doing it.
So what’s the answer? Well RECO could do nothing and people will continue to push the limits and before long we are working in the wild west OR RECO could adapt a DIS type service similar to that of the Toronto Real Estate Board. TREB’s DIS (Data Integrity Service) is an anonymous tip hotline for agents to complain about MLS listings. A similar system would keep RECO inspectors busy and initially we would see a huge spike in complaints and levied fines and like all hotlines there is always the possibility for abuse, but the goal here is to create a level playing field and nothing less. Complaints need to be backed up with proof and solid evidence. Minor or first infractions could be corrected with something a simple as a warning and a subsequent follow-up.. From there…sky’s the limit. It’s not a perfect solution and it’s probably filled with holes but the end result is clear. It’s time for our industry to get back to the business of buying and selling homes not looking for loopholes in a system that rewards rule breakers.
mark mclean is the Broker/Manager at the Bosley Real Estate Queen St W office and President-Elect for the Toronto Real Estate Board. The opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of TREB or Bosley RE.