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Karen Cox: Ambitious agendas call for bold action

The real estate business looks a lot different today than it did when I first started out as a Realtor 25 years ago. I know that anyone who has been in this business longer than five years would agree with me. The technologies we use today are different. Our buyers and sellers are more sophisticated than ever before. And the role we play in the transaction process has also changed.

Staying on top of the latest technological trends, threats and opportunities can sometimes feel like a lot, regardless of how long you’ve been a Realtor. Which is why I chose, 12 years ago, to get involved with my local board, the Realtors Association of Grey Bruce Owen Sound. I wanted to stay engaged and in-the-know on issues that affect my profession and my community.

And that is why I am thrilled to be president of the Ontario Real Estate Association today, an organization that has chosen to be at the forefront of change.

In 2018, we did a lot of new things and we also made some tough calls.

For one, we applied a new approach to our public affairs. Today, when we go to the government with our asks, we go with support from the people. We choose to be on the side of hard-working homeowners, the same people that we work with and advocate for every single day as Realtors and community builders. With this new approach, we have established ourselves as a go-to resource for the provincial government on issues that affect Ontario Realtors, as well as buyers, sellers and homeowners.

We also decided that we would have some difficult, but necessary, conversations with our members about the changes affecting their business. Our first ever REALiTY Conference was an unvarnished, clear-eyed and bold examination of the biggest issues confronting Canadian real estate today. We brought together some of the biggest disruptors and trailblazers for three days of information downloading. From blockchain to chatbots to artificial intelligence, our speakers covered it all.

Our decisions to try new things, to be bold, weren’t always the popular choice. But by challenging our conventions and taking a new road altogether, we accomplished some big things for our members, home buyers and sellers.

In 2019, I’m excited to continue building on these accomplishments.

At the top of my list is nailing REBBA. After ten years of knocking, we finally got the government to open the door on REBBA reform. The legislation that governs our profession is badly out of date, and it needs to be updated to reflect our modern real estate market.

A review of the entire act is officially underway, and OREA has a front row seat at the table. So far, the government’s paper on REBBA reads a lot like our recommendations that we shared with the government last fall. We will continue to push for things such as personal real estate corporations, a more demanding education program and a tougher regulator (RECO). The government’s official review of REBBA is a big win for Ontario Realtors and a giant step forward toward higher professional and ethical standards.

I am also committed to continuing the work we started on turning more young and first-time home buyers into homeowners. Our Keep the Dream Alive campaign forced attention to the housing supply crisis in Ontario, and the real-life agony that first-time home buyers face in today’s undersupplied housing market, something I see every day in my own markets of Meaford, Beaver Valley, Thornbury and Blue Mountain.

Today, OREA is acting as a key advisor to the Ontario government on its Housing Supply Action Plan, which was a direct result of our campaign. This plan will lay the ground work for where we need to go in increasing housing supply and getting taxes down to create a new generation of homeowners.

Finally, our members have told us themselves that they want more engagement with OREA. So, that’s what we’re going to do through things like our monthly President’s Podcast, live townhalls, leadership training, Standard Forms outreach, Ontario Realtor Party Conference and 2020 REALiTY Conference.

We have an ambitious agenda before us at OREA. But, if I’ve learned anything in my time as a Realtor, long-time local and provincial volunteer, it’s that Realtors are some of the most determined, hardworking, unstoppable professionals out there. Despite our challenges, I know that we will come together, rise above and persevere in our collective mission to help build stronger communities.