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How to find out if a real estate agent is legitimate

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I recently met a young lady who offered to help me sell my house. How do I know if she’s a legitimate real estate agent?

To be eligible to trade in real estate in Ontario, sales reps, brokers and brokerages must register with the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). As well, sales reps and brokers must be employed by a registered real estate brokerage.

The short answer to your question is that you can look up potential candidates using the search tool conveniently located on every page of our website. The search function allows you to search for brokerages, individual salespeople and brokerages, or generate lists of representatives by city. It will tell you if they’re registered with us, and if they have faced any disciplinary action within the last five years.

If you don’t see someone and you have spelled the name correctly, they are not registered.

Our website has a lot of helpful tips and advice that remind consumers of their rights and responsibilities in a real estate transaction. You’ll also find public advisories to inform consumers of important issues or developments in the real estate industry, as well as recent enforcement decisions against representatives who break the rules.

Whenever you buy or sell a property, it’s a good idea to hire a registered salesperson or broker because handling a real estate transaction from start-to-finish can be tricky, and that’s especially true if you’re inexperienced.

The industry knows that RECO takes breaches of the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002 (REBBA) and the code of ethics very seriously. Salespersons and brokers who contravene the code can face fines, and those who contravene REBBA can face fines, probation, restitution orders and even imprisonment. Serious or repeat offenders can have their registration suspended or revoked.

Most salespeople and brokers welcome our enforcement efforts because they build public confidence in the profession; consumers are more likely to use a registered representative to buy or sell a home when they know an organization like RECO is enforcing the legislation that governs the industry.

So far, 2018 has been a busy year for us. From January to the end of July, RECO has participated in 90 discipline matters, issued over $300,000 in fines and launched five proposals to revoke a registration. Our preference is to work with salespeople and brokers and inform them about the rules they must follow to help them stay out of trouble, but we will show our teeth when a friendlier approach hasn’t proven effective.

A final word: with very few exceptions, trading in real estate without RECO registration is a violation of REBBA and can lead to administrative sanctions. If the individual you mentioned isn’t registered with us, and is presenting herself to home buyers and sellers as a legitimate real estate salesperson or broker, please let us know and inform the police.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email askjoe@reco.on.ca.

Joe Richer is registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) and contributor for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @RECOhelps

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Victoria real estate agent disciplined for false advertising, encouraging cash deal to avoid taxes

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A Victoria real estate agent is facing $9,000 in fines and a 60-day licence suspension after breaking several professional rules during the sale of her father’s half-million-dollar property, according to a decision by the Real Estate Council of B.C. 

Whitney Garside’s missteps — outlined this week in a disciplinary decision posted on the council’s website — included falsely advertising the property as being almost twice its actual size and advising the buyer they could avoid the property transfer tax if they paid cash directly to the seller.

The property on Burnett Road in Victoria was being sold in 2016 by the real estate agent’s father. That relationship was disclosed and isn’t among the reasons she has been disciplined.

According to the disciplinary consent order, Garside told the buyer — whose name is redacted — that by paying $42,000 cash on the side, the value of the property could be reduced to avoid paying the property transfer tax.

That cash arrangement was not shared with Garside’s brokerage, Re/Max Camosun, a failure that contravened the Real Estate Services Act.

The council also ruled that she “failed to act honestly and with reasonable care and skill” when she advised the buyer the property transfer tax could be avoided by paying cash directly to the seller. 

The council’s discipline committee also found that Garside committed professional misconduct when she failed to recommend the seller and buyer seek independent legal advice, specifically regarding the property transfer tax and the cash agreement.

Another issue the council considered professional misconduct involved the size of the property in question.

The council ruled that Garside published false and misleading advertising and failed to act with reasonable care and skill when the property was advertised as 8,712 square feet, when in fact a portion of the lot belonged to the Ministry of Transportation, and the actual size was just 4,711 square feet.

The discipline committee ordered Garside’s licence be suspended for 60 days, which will be completed Jan. 3, 2021.

She has also been ordered to complete real estate ethics and remedial classes at her own expense.

Garside was also fined $7,500 as a disciplinary penalty and $1,500 in enforcement expenses.

She agreed to waive her right to appeal the council’s discipline committee’s decision in September.

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Frisco apartment community sells to Canadian investor

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A Canada-based investor has purchased a Frisco apartment community as part of a larger Texas deal.

The 330-unit Satori Frisco apartments opened last year on Research Road in Frisco.

BSR Real Estate Investment Trust bought the four-story rental community that was built by Atlanta-based Davis Development.

Satori Frisco was more than 90% leased at the time of sale. The property includes a two-story fitness center, a car care center, a dog park and a resort-style swimming pool.

The Frisco property sold along with Houston’s Vale luxury apartments in a deal valued at $129 million.

“BSR recently exited the smaller Beaumont and Longview, Texas, markets and also sold noncore properties in other markets,” John Bailey, BSR’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are now using our strong liquidity position to invest in Vale and Satori Frisco, modern communities in core growth markets with the amenities our residents desire.”

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House prices on Prince Edward Island continue steady climb

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Residential real estate prices on Prince Edward Island continue to climb at a rate higher than the national average, according to the latest report from a national organization. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association released monthly figures for November 2020 on Tuesday.

They show that the average price for a resale home on P.E.I. is about 21 per cent higher than it was a year earlier. 

Only Quebec had a bigger year-over-year increase, at about 23 per cent. Overall across Canada, prices were up 13.8 per cent year over year in the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the fifth straight month, year-over-year sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019,” the report noted.

“Meanwhile, an ongoing shortage of supply of homes available for purchase across most of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces means sellers there hold the upper hand in sales negotiations.”

That lack of houses coming onto the market compared to the demand means that in those provinces, there is “increased competition among buyers for listings and … fertile ground for price gains.”

There have been anecdotal reports for months that Prince Edward Island’s low rate of COVID-19 infection and looser rules around social activities have been encouraging people to buy homes on the Island. 

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