HUDAK: New real estate rules good news for home buyers and sellers

Because buying a home is one of the biggest events of our lives, how we buy a home matters a lot. So, when the government is updating the laws for how we buy and sell homes, we should all pay attention.

This update is long overdue. The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA), where I serve as CEO, has been asking for it for years, because the rules haven’t been refreshed since 2002, when internet listings were a new development, and paperwork was sent via fax machines.

Ontario realtors put their own ideas on the table and if implemented, the province stands to become a leader in North America when it comes to professional standards, consumer protection and fair practices for a modern real estate market.

For example, the province has proposed creating specialty licensing classes for real estate agents so that buyers or sellers will be able to tell whether or not their realtor has the education, training and experience to help them transact things like commercial, condominium or agricultural properties.

When it comes to getting a real estate licence, the province is proposing to ensure new students receive more practice-ready education and take harder exams. Once students get their licence, they’ll stay sharp with tougher continuing education too.

Consumer protection for Ontario families buying or selling homes is also going to improve. The new proposed rules should make sure nobody profits from unethical acts, and it should allow real estate licences to be suspended, or even revoked, in the most serious cases. This is something OREA has proposed for years.

Finally, Ontario’s new real estate rules are also going to ensure we have some of the fairest practices in North America. For example, the province suggests banning the use of what’s called “escalation clauses” or language put into sales agreements that automatically drives up bids when more than one buyer is interested in a home. These clauses pose serious risks to consumers, since they can expose buyers to financial risk.

The government is also examining whether a real estate professional can represent more than one party in a particular sale. When would that happen? Well, our realtor did a fantastic job for my family. As the kids get bigger and we need more space, if my realtor was listing a home we liked, who is the government to tell us we cannot use him just because he is also working for the seller?

In these situations, the best answer is informed consumer choice. Everybody should have the option of working with a different professional or sticking with the realtor they already like and trust. This is common in smaller communities, where there aren’t as many realtors and in commercial transactions.

In British Columbia, the government proposed making it mandatory to change realtors. But it backfired. In many cases, consumers didn’t find a new realtor at all, and instead wound up completely unrepresented.

For years, OREA has advocated for better consumer protection, higher professional standards for realtors and tougher enforcement. If you own a home, or if you’d like to, these changes affect you. And as long as the government protects your right to make your own choices, you stand to benefit.