Georges Pahud takes over the Canadian Real Estate Association at a particularly tense time in its history.
Months away from a date with the Competition Tribunal to deal with allegations of anti-competitive practices - Ottawa's competition watchdog is challenging CREA's tight control of the popular Multiple Listing Service - the Vancouver-based real estate agent is tasked with guiding its defence and rebuilding the industry's relationship with consumers. Mr. Pahud took over on Monday, the same day the association passed changes that will make it easier for consumers to post homes they intend to sell themselves on the MLS for a flat fee.
In an interview, he would not directly address any issues with the Competition Bureau, because the case is before the courts.
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What do you hope to accomplish this year?
I want to go back to doing what's best for the association and the country and get away from the legal issues because it's just not productive. We need to continue to demonstrate the value of realtors, whatever their business model and services.
Has that message been lost on consumers?
What do you say to critics who suggest real estate fees are too high?
You can't get something for nothing; it just doesn't work. You can't work for nothing. People need to be willing to pay a fair price for their choices and, in Canada, we are lucky because we have choices.
What's the market like right now in Canada?
There are many markets, and things are always changing. I've been doing real estate since 1973, since before the Dead Sea was even sick, and things are always changing. As for agents, though, while the tools we use are different, it is still a belly-to-belly business where you do deals across the kitchen table. Most people won't buy a house over the Internet - they want to feel it, see it, touch it, smell it and get a feel for the rooms. That hasn't changed, and I don't think it will change.
How has the Internet made a difference?
Take a look at how it has impacted stock brokers and travel agents - clearly one of the challenges we are facing is technology. But the difference in our case is the product we sell is highly emotional. I was reading something the other day about how people are starting to use travel agents again because the online experience has not been satisfactory. I think it will be the same for us. We have a flurry of people who want to use the Internet but I think the experience worldwide is that people want to use an agent because it is a complicated process.
Travel agents and stock brokers have had to lower their fees to compete.
I'm not sure that pricing for services is going to be that big an issue because if it were truly a big issue for consumers, Holt Renfrew wouldn't exist. People want service. Some people will probably choose a Realtor based on how much they want to spend and what services they want, but they have that opportunity now.
There are 98,000 agents in Canada. Is that too many?
There's no question that our profession is like any other in that you have the good, the bad and the ugly. Over and over polls show people are happy with our service. Do we have a few bad apples? Of course we do.
Is it too easy to get a real estate licence? Some argue the barriers to entry are too low.
That's not true. The courses can be very tough. I've coached people who have taken the B.C. course and I'm glad it's them and not me.