Financial literacy: Good for your clients, good for your business

It’s a term heard a lot these days, but what does “financial literacy” have to do with REALTORS®?

Everything!

Presidents from all three levels of organized real estate discuss financial literacy with the Commissioner of FCAC, at the Evolution of Financial Literacy and Canadian Homebuyers’ Roundtable.
From left: Laura Leyser (CREA President), Lucie Tedesco (Commissioner of FCAC), Phil Dorner (OREA President), and Dianne Usher (TREB President)

Every day you engage with individuals and families on one of the biggest purchases of their lives. I’m sure you’ve seen many people make less-than-optimal financial decisions. Taking on a bigger mortgage than they should. Assuming appliances were part of the deal and when they weren’t, buying top rate appliances. Not factoring in closing and related costs.

Buying a house can be exciting, emotional and stressful all at once, so it’s not surprising that even financially astute people can make less than optimal decisions. But how many of your clients could have avoided home-buying mistakes and miscalculations if they had been better informed?

In today’s economy, financial literacy is an essential life skill. It is particularly salient in the real estate sphere, where Canadians make decisions involving hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars. Being financially literate can make all the difference between a happy homebuyer and a financially stressed homebuyer.

Certainly, financial literacy is a personal responsibility. But businesses and governments can support Canadians in making responsible financial decisions by helping them access good information.

As REALTORS®, you are in a unique position. You’re on the financial literacy frontlines, working one-on-one with Canadians as their trusted advisor on a major financial transaction.

How can you make a real difference? By investing time in walking clients through the complex, often confusing financial questions they face.  “Should I sell, buy or rent in this economy? How much can I afford? How much down payment do I need?” How do the latest mortgage rules affect me? What’s your commission and how am I benefitting?”

In addition to being a direct source of information on such issues, you can steer clients to consumer resources offered by industry/trade associations and government bodies like the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC), which is the leading source of objective financial information for Canadians.

CREA and FCAC recently collaborated to create the Homebuyers Road Map. It’s a terrific resource that helps homebuyers assess their financial readiness, explore mortgage financing options, research government assistance programs and more. I know that thousands of REALTORS® are using the road map as a tool to educate clients. Contact CREA to order print copies, or refer your clients to the brochure on CREA’s website (you can add it to your own website as well).

FCAC’s website is also packed with helpful tools. There’s a dedicated For Consumers section that includes over 60 resources on topics such as mortgages, moving out on your own and owning a home. You or your clients can download free publications, use mortgage calculators, and connect with FCAC’s social media sites for money tips and videos.

Whether you’re dealing with real estate novices or seasoned buyers, the more you can help your clients navigate the financial issues involved — so they make responsible decisions — the better. That’s not just good business. That’s good for your business.

Lucie Tedesco, an experienced leader and a Canadian Financial institutions’ professional, was named Commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) in September 2013. Prior to this appointment, Lucie served as Deputy Commissioner of FCAC. Before joining the agency, she held a variety of challenging management roles at Export Development Canada (EDC) culminating with the position of Vice-President, Strategy & Planning - Insurance Group. When not at the office, Lucie enjoys skiing, spending time with her extended family and travelling.


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