Some things never change. And some things constantly change. Like the life, the role and the job of Calgary real estate professionals.
Although everybody calls them “agents,” they are legally and professionally “Realtors.” Because, according to the law, the brokerage conducts the business and is, technically, the agent for the buyer or seller.
The Real Estate Council of Alberta is the independent governing authority that sets, regulates and enforces standards for real estate brokerage, mortgage brokerage, property management and real estate appraisal professionals in Alberta. The Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) is one of the largest real estate boards in Canada, with 5,200 licensed brokers and registered associates, representing more than 240 Calgary-area offices.
Not that it was ever as simple as some people thought, but real estate is so much more than taking a listing, placing ads, putting up the “For Sale” sign, doing showings, sitting in open houses and presenting offers.
Of course prices and Calgary market factors change. But real estate contends with the realities that consumer trends change, consumer expectations change and, for the real estate vendor, buyer and the professional, technology changes everything.
“Despite so many changes,” says Ian Burns, CEO of the Alberta Real Estate Association (AREA), the professional organization that represents the interests of more than 10,000 Realtors in Alberta, “buying and selling real estate remains a person-to-person transaction. More than 90 per cent of Alberta real estate transactions are completed using a Realtor, reinforcing the value real estate professionals bring to a transaction with their expertise and market knowledge.
“Real estate in Calgary is a good example. Its identity is evolving. Instead of urban sprawl, there are conversations about energy efficiency, sustainability, public transportation, densification and aging in place. In this marketplace, Realtors have an increasing role as advisers and information interpreters for their clients on an ever-expanding list of housing options and considerations.”
According to Bob Jablonski, a respected Calgary Realtor and AREA’s president-elect, “Expectations are changing for Realtors. They need to be more on top of trends in the real estate market, more knowledgeable about the communities in which they work, and more knowledgeable about topics like construction.
“Because buyers and sellers are finding more information online, they want their real estate professional to be prepared to interpret it and provide guidance to them.”
The basics of becoming a Calgary-based real estate professional and doing business – buying and selling real estate – in the Calgary market have constant upgrades and occasional changes.
Prospective Calgary Realtors opt to earn certification by signing up for the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) fundamentals of real estate ($1,400) course which is an Alberta prerequisite for the more specific practice ($850) course, commonly the practice of residential real estate for residential Realtors. RECA is the independent, non-government agency responsible for the regulation of the Alberta real estate industry and requires that prospective Realtors complete the licensing requirements within 18 months of starting the program.
One key factor that is vital and constantly changeable – for the real estate professional and the selling or buying consumer – is technology. It has and will continue to redefine real estate in Calgary.
Burns underscores how very much real estate consumers have embraced this technology. “Today, 65 per cent of consumers start their property search on www.REALTOR.ca, even before contacting an agent.”
“Technology is an exciting dynamic of so many aspects of the real estate profession,” says CREB president, Cliff Stevenson. “Mostly, it brings so much information to the consumer, and I’m a big booster of providing consumers with as much information as possible. Technology has also been an important easy-access way to a listing in front of the consumer. It’s also extremely effective for the Realtor and how we can now showcase the properties. It has changed how we search for and market properties, and more and more agents are getting involved in online and the social media marketing of listings.”
There is consensus technology makes the business of real estate more effective and the Realtor’s time and effort more efficient. “The fundamentals of the real estate profession haven’t changed,” Burns notes, “but technological improvements are impacting the profession in positive ways. For example, our AREA forms – the contracts that solidify buyer and seller agreements and others – are available online and can be completed and signed electronically on tablets and smartphones, saving time. Not long ago, a Realtor would have to drive across the city to get a signature, or fax documents back and forth from their offices.”
“In the business, there is a tremendous amount of information to gather,” Stevenson says. “Especially the last three years or so, technology in our CREB system has tremendously improved access to business intelligence for our agents: so many aspects, from the presentations of offers to electronic signatures and new 3D cameras giving the MLS browser panoramic views.
“Technology is a tremendous tool for the real estate agent. There’s no doubt that it creates a bit of a gap in the communication protocol, compared to what we may be used to, but it allows the Realtor to be more remote, immediate and not so tied to the necessity to have meetings and face-to-face interaction.”
“Most importantly, we see the quantity and quality of real estate information continuing to increase, meaning that Realtors will remain at the heart of the transaction as market experts, guiding clients toward informed choices when buying or selling their largest assets. This data also enriches the conversations we, as Calgarians, can have about how we grow as a city, enhancing our existing communities in smart, sustainable ways,” Burns adds with enthusiasm.