Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Were They Thinking?

No, that's not dog pee in the carpet. It's a feature.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Space-age, Spacing-saving Italian Design.

The trend towards smaller condos is here to stay and with it comes a trend towards compact, space-saving furniture. One of my clients was recently looking for a murphy bed for the guest room in her sleek loft near the the Lachine Canal. She wanted something both stylish and practical - a fold-out bed hidden behind a desk and bookshelf set up, for example. This video is making the rounds just a little too late for my canal-side acquaintance, but it might be of interest to someone else out there hoping to add a little Italian brio to their home decor.

Best of all, Montreal's Fraser Furniture is the exclusive retailer for this totally cool line.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Montreal Real Estate Board says Buh-bye to Cdn Real Estate Association

The Greater Montreal Real Estate Board, Canada's second largest,  has served notice that it will withdraw from the Canadian Real Estate Association at the end of 2013. Quebec members pay about $3.4 million in CREA dues annually.

The GMREB represents 10,000 or so brokers, roughly a tenth of all CREA's membership.  The national organization represents boards across Canada. The two have been at odds for years, with Montreal complaining about CREA's weak defense of Quebeckers' interests, spending, dues increases and the services members receive in return.

The big item is CREA's unwillingness or inability to block "for sale by owner" (FSBO) properties from the system in Quebec. These listings are legal in other jurisdictions but not in Quebec, where only brokers licensed through the provincial licensing agency, the OACIQ, are allowed to market and sell properties on behalf of a third party. This makes Quebec different from the rest of Canada.

Quebec's 12 boards were worried enough about the possibility of FSBOs being listed on the that they launched their own property-search website, It has asked CREA to default to  Centris rather than Realtor for all Quebec property searches. So far, no response.

In a letter to members, the GMREB included links to two Montreal area FSBO listings recently posted to through a Toronto listing service affiliated with the Toronto Real Estate Board. That back door move bypasses Quebec's licensing and professional oversight requirements.

You can see how there would be irritation and hurt feelings, right?

But FSBOs aren't the only irritant. Montreal is also reluctant to take part in a national data distribution system that would put information collected by GMREB members into the hands of cut-rate sales firms and FSBOs. Data like average selling prices, days on the market, etc is gold to real estate professionals and, presumably to those who would feast on our labour. We've paid to have it collated by our association. We aren't about to give it away to the Du Proprios of the world.

There are other issues, as well. CREA wants to create a national code of ethics for real estate professionals. GMREB opposes the idea because its primary role is to protect and promote its membership.  Quebec brokers are bound by a code of ethics administered by the OACIQ. The OACIQ fields complaints from the public, investigates, adjudicates and punishes brokers who break the rules. Best of all, every broker pays dues to maintain the agency even though we get no benefit from it. Needless to say, GMREB has no interest in  paying for the implementation of a second code of ethics.

Finally, GMREB has been asking questions about where the CREA dues end up. Remember, this is Quebec, where we know a thing or two about expense-account padding, lavish dinners, cocktail parties, exotic meeting locales etc etc. Quebec's federation of real estate boards complained about lavish spending and duplication of services. For its part. GMREB managed to claw back $1.5 million in CREA dues in the last two years and has used the money to promote and for other advertising tailored to the Quebec market.

Talks have been ongoing, but now the time of talking seems to be over. CREA is having a special general meeting later this month in Vancouver. According to the Montreal board, despite promises to the contrary, none of Quebec's concerns are addresses on the meeting's agenda.

Unless something changes between now and then, Quebec will cut itself loose from CREA's mothership. Says GMREB president Patrick Juanèda:

 Your Board of Directors has evaluated the situation carefully and considers that, at this time, the risks and disadvantages outweigh the benefits of our membership in CREA. It is important to note that the code of ethics and data distribution rules are already in place. If we stay in CREA, we must ensure that we implement the necessary structures and have all of our members comply with them.

The board reserves the right to change its mind, especially if CREA responds to its concerns at the upcoming general meeting. Stay tuned.


While we're on the topic of people being annoyed by the way in which their dues are spent, there's a petition going around that takes issue with the way the OACIQ is spending brokers' money.

The straw that broke the camel's back is a recently announced mandatory course for all real estate brokers on the importance of "collaboration". Collaboration is what happens when one broker calls another broker  to see a property. If you show it, you are collaborating. If you ignore the call or multiple calls, you  are not collaborating. Pretty simple. The OACIQ is requiring all license holders to take take this 2-hour on-line course at a cost of $150 each.

$150 each and they don't even have to rent a room, put on a pot of coffee or lay out a tray of danish. That's an easy $2.6 million for the licensing agency. That's on top of the $16.3 million it collected in annual dues from saps like me in 2012.

People see this training as little more than a cash grab. They are concerned that if the OACIQ gets away with this it will implement more and more "imporatant"  mandatory training at extra cost to the dues payers. It's the Quebec way, right? Can't balance your budget? Raise fees! Implement surcharges! Create a new tax!  Easy money, right? The English version of the petition has 450+ signatures. The French version, nearly 2,900.

Here's the petition.