A SIGNIFICANT CHANGE
Prior to June 15th a REALTOR® could represent both the seller and the buyer or more than one buyer in a real estate transaction. With the change in rules, this is no longer permitted (except in remote and underserved communities) and has had a significant impact on providing real estate services in BC.
The rule change is intended to avoid the conflict of interest for a REALTOR® which arises when one client in a transaction wishes to make an offer on another client’s property, or when two or more clients are interested in making an offer on the same property.
When either of these conflicts arise, the REALTOR® now has two choices. One is to stop acting for both clients, step away from the transaction, and refer both clients to other real estate professionals— not an easy choice for real estate professionals who have worked, sometimes over a period of years, to create relationships with and understand the needs of their clients; and not a comfortable situation for the client who is not able to complete the transaction with the REALTOR® they originally chose to represent them. The other choice is to stop acting for one client (the ‘Released Client’) and continue representing the other (the ‘Continuing Client’)—another difficult choice for the REALTOR®, as both may be long-standing clients. Both clients must agree in writing to proceed as Continuing and Released Clients, and the REALTOR® must maintain the confidentiality of information shared by the Released Client. If both parties do not agree, the real estate professional cannot act for either client.
If the consumer has no current or past client relationship with the REALTOR®, they can also choose to be an ‘Unrepresented Party’ in a transaction. This is not recommended because the real estate professional representing the other party can only give the Unrepresented Party limited assistance and information, and cannot provide advice with respect to the offer, the amount, or the subjects to include.
THE INTENTIONThe new rules are intended to ensure the consumer can make an informed decision by understanding their options for representation and the risks of acting as an Unrepresented Party, and to remove the potential for conflict of interest on the part of the real estate professional.
THE EFFECT The new rules force awareness on the consumer of the prudence of using independent professional representation in a real estate transaction. In the past buyers could be represented in real estate transactions by the seller’s REALTOR®. These transactions could be in excess of $1 million. If considering buying a business with a similar value, few would think it wise to be represented and advised by the seller’s accountant and could not be represented by the seller’s lawyer. This said, there is justifiable concern by both clients and real estate professionals, that clients who enter the most crucial stage of the transaction represented by a real estate professional with whom they have no previous relationship are not being well served, and concern by real estate professionals that, because of Bowen’s small population, years spent developing relationships may make it more difficult rather than easier to represent their clients throughout the process of buying a home.
This has just skimmed the surface of the new regulations and the affect they have on how real estate professionals work with their clients. I will be following up with more.