Greeting from CREA’s new CEO

On December 11, 2017, I started my journey with the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and for the next two weeks, had the opportunity to work alongside Gary Simonsen, who retired at the end of the year. What a terrific introduction it was for me to work with someone who had been with CREA for over 20 years and CEO for the last seven. Gary knows everyone in the industry and everything about the state of “organized real estate.” Throughout the transition, Gary was professional, helpful, kind and diplomatic.

My background couldn’t be more different. I “self-identify” as a lobbyist, having spent the last 30+ years in politics and government relations as an advocate for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries and, for the past five and a half years, as President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada. The rail sector, like real estate, is a foundational industry with deep ties to our country’s history and formation. Like real estate, it is a national enterprise that is a backbone of the Canadian economy.

But real estate is not foreign to me. I grew up in a large Ottawa family and my father, grandfather, uncles and cousins were in real estate as developers and entrepreneurs and my brother Paul is a long-time REALTOR® who guided my wife and I into our first home.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting with CREA staff and the Board of Directors and learning about what we do for REALTORS®. We have a lot of excellent information about what members want, how consumers see us and how they interact with information on REALTOR.ca.

Although it’s still early days, so far I’m seeing three important areas of focus. The first is REALTOR.ca, which is (perhaps behind Google) the first place Canadians go for information about real estate. A whopping 92% of Canadians are aware of REALTOR.ca and it is seen as the go-to place when buying or selling a home. Many people don’t know that the U.S.-based REALTOR.com is a private company owned by the publishers of the Wall Street Journal. But REALTOR.ca is owned by you, the 124,000 REALTORS® who are members of CREA. In 2017, REALTOR.ca produced 2.6 million leads for REALTORS®, each one coupled with analytics such as how often the consumer visited the listing, looked at photos and so on.

The second area of focus is advocacy (perhaps not surprising, given my background). We are currently facing a significant tide of negative opinion from policy makers at all levels of government, based on the myth that real estate needs to be “cooled off” through measures such as the new 20% mortgage test and higher interest rates. The public policy environment with respect to real estate is very immature, considering its significance to the Canadian economy. There is no understanding of the fundamentals of supply and demand; no discussion of the impact of new policies on middle income consumers or of the allocation of resources from new taxes derived from real estate transactions.

Finally, we should be very focused on the reputation of the industry. REALTORS® have a great story to tell: from the countless ways you help people every day to the charitable efforts through REALTORS Care®; we need to communicate our value proposition and defend ourselves against those who want to regulate our industry.

In short, we are doing great things on your behalf at CREA and we have the team to be even better. All we need to do is provide our members, REALTORS®, with the tools they need to drive the industry and profession forward. It’s an exciting challenge and I’m looking forward to reporting our progress in the months ahead.

Prior to joining the Canadian Real Estate Association as CEO, Michael was President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada. He has more than 30 years of experience in government, public affairs and government relations. Michael is focused on REALTOR.ca and CREA’s other technology services; advocacy and regulatory matters as well as the reputation and public understanding of REALTORS® and the value they provide to property owners, buyers and sellers.


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