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CREB members reject merger with AREA

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Members of the Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) have rejected a plan to dissolve the organization and merge with the Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA).

 Of the board’s 7,000 members, CREB confirms that 1,526 of them participated in Wednesday night’s vote virtually or in person. A two-thirds majority was required for it to pass— 53 per cent voted against the proposal.

The proposed consolidation was initiated by CREB and approved in early November after the organizations cited that member research supported a streamlined membership structure. 

 

CREB CEO surprised by result

 

Alan Tennant, CEO of CREB, said the result of the vote was a surprise.

“We asked the members a really hard question, and they considered it. They were thoughtful. We had lots of questions. We actually sat in front of over 1,000 members in dozens and dozens of sessions, many calls, emails, texts, lots of back and forth with folks, and they were really thinking hard about it,” said Tennant.

“Really, there was a lot of learning between AREA and CREB and our staff teams and our leadership teams, and I think we need to sit and think (about) what we heard and saw there and also from what we heard from our members. 

“We’ve got a great organization, and so does AREA. The whole premise was that these are two strong organizations that simply can see a better path, but I think there’s a lot of synergies here we can build from.”

 

Members considered the merger carefully

 

Tennant said when you ask a question like this, and the word ‘dissolution’ is in the decision, it causes people to think hard about their professional life, in a different format and without CREB. 

If members had voted to merge with AREA, it would have meant the sale of CREB’s office building in northeast Calgary.

“We’re really excited about the future. It did upset a number of members that we’d be moving out of the building and the building would be sold and I can tell you for as long as I’m CEO this building is not being sold. It’s not my decision, but I’m not making that recommendation to the board. I’ve made that clear,” he said.

AREA CEO Brad Mitchell said he wasn’t surprised by the result of the vote

“The members spoke, and there were lots of concerns expressed in the last week. And their choice,” he said. “To be honest, I didn’t really see anything that was paramount. I guess one of the concerns was selling the building. That one came up a lot. A lot of members wanted to keep the building.

“Realtors tend to be quite proprietary”

 

“This wasn’t an AREA vote . . . This was brought to us by the CREB board, and it’s really a CREB board decision whether they bring it forward again or not…The members had a chance to speak, but only (21 per cent) of them voted. I was a little bit disappointed in the turnout. But it is what it is.”

AREA is the provincial association representing the interests and concerns of more than 13,000 Alberta realtors from 10 local real estate boards/associations— including those belonging to CREB.

Corinne Lyall, owner/broker with Royal LePage Benchmark in Calgary, said she was prepared for the vote to go either way. 

“Realtors tend to be quite proprietary,” she said. “They’re proprietary over the Calgary Real Estate Board even though it might not be completely the most rational decision. If the Calgary Real Estate Board is looking to do this, there’s a reason for it. It could be financial. 

“So you’ve got 5,500 people who are apathetic or …too busy to vote, which means they don’t care.”

 

“Some of the longer-term realtors in our business have a sense of attachment to the Calgary Real Estate Board, whether it’s common sense or if it’s probably more emotional. Whenever you have that strong group of people, and it could be a minority as far as the rest is, as only 1,500 people voted. So you’ve got 5,500 people who are apathetic or …too busy to vote, which means they don’t care. 

“My guess is there’s a lot of Yes people out there (who) went ‘oh, I guess I should have voted. I assumed that it would just go through.'”

Lyall said she was in favour of the merger, adding that if CREB was behind this, there was probably a good reason. 

“I believe a lot of this was financially driven. I don’t believe they have the revenue to sustain their current organization,” she said. “I think what’s going to happen is they’re going to have to regroup and figure out how they’re going to create an organization that is financially feasible, which probably means they’re going to have to offload some of their services anyway.

“The suggestion that the merger was financially driven is not accurate and encourages a concerning narrative,” Tennant rebutted in an email. “The leadership of both organizations has publicly stated that both organizations are financially strong and well-run.”

CREB Chair Christian Twomey added, “With AREA, we jointly presented a solid case for the merger and established that the organizations could do more for our members together rather than competing… If the suggestion is that we’re going to significantly erode the value we provide members or even close up shop, think again.”

 

CREB to review initiative 

 

Mary-Ann Mears, a broker with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada in Calgary, said she was surprised and encouraged by the turnout.

“Although my personal vote is private, from the thin margins of the vote, I can surmise that there are CREB members who accept the collaboration on the one hand, while on the other hand, there are those who have unanswered questions and voted no,” she said.

CREB said it will review the initiative and reflect on the strong statements from members about what they value from the organization and their ideas for the future. 

In a statement, Christian Twomey, CREB’s Chair, said: “We’ll be exploring why the consolidation plan was defeated to learn if there is an appetite for (the) continued pursuit of a different membership structure, or perhaps refocus in a new direction.”

One of the more positive outcomes? Twomey said CREB has never seen member engagement at this level.

 

Editor’s note: This article has been updated from it’s original version to include additional comments from AREA and CREB leadership.


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