The birds and the bees of real estate: What REALTOR® members have to say about financial literacy

For most of us, our rite of passage into adulthood looked a little something like:

  • embarrassing sex talk(s),
  • endless advice on what to “be”,
  • an accumulation of school-related debt resulting from that advice.

And then, like that, the advice stops but the debt lingers behind – just as we’re ready to fly the coop.

Every day, REALTOR® members walk the front lines of financial literacy, helping potential buyers navigate the financial aspects of homeownership.

And, for Pauline Aunger, The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) Vice-President, handing clients the Homebuyers’ Road Map begins the discussion of a buyer’s financial acumen. “One of my clients, a young couple, told me their families were more comfortable talking about sex than money. They never discussed any financial matters – mortgages, interest, repayment schedules, etc. – with their parents. How can we expect our children to make informed financial decisions when they cannot engage in this dialogue at home?” she asks.

John Lusink, a member of the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB)’s Board of Directors, added that, in his experience, helping clients purchase a home has far-reaching impacts and can help educate our children about borrowing: What is interest? What is amortization? How can different payment schedules affect the amount paid on a mortgage?

In celebration of Financial Literacy Month, and to mark the first anniversary of the Road Map, REALTOR® members from CREA, the Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) and TREB participated in a roundtable discussion, moderated by the Commissioner of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) – and CREA Café guest blogger – Lucie Tedesco.

With over 217 years of combined experience as REALTOR® members, our participants have seen it all when it comes to financial literacy, or the lack thereof. This is why, Laura Leyser, CREA President, says she hands out the Homebuyers’ Road Map to her clients; “[Financial literacy] is the first piece of the home buying puzzle and – hands-down – the most important piece.”

And the sooner these details are understood, the better. Telling clients who have their hearts set on a particular property that they have to get their finances in order first is a hard conversation to have, but it is a REALTOR® member’s job. As Pat Verge, OREA Director-At-Large quipped, “it is better to wait than eat Kraft dinner for the rest of their lives.”

But it’s not just first time buyers who can benefit from this resource. In 2012, over 257,000 new Canadians obtained permanent residency (CIC, 2013). According to Tom Lebour, OREA’s Director-At-Large, in his community, these “new” Canadians are also craving more information about the financial aspects of purchasing a home.

Whether REALTOR® members are dealing with real estate novices, new Canadians or seasoned buyers, helping their clients appreciate and navigate the host of financial issues involved – so they make responsible decisions – is “just good business.”

Our former Government Relations and Communications Advisor, Nicole Christy started with CREA as a co-op student in the spring of 2012 and, after finishing her graduate degree, became a permanent staff member. Nicole was often on the front lines, liaising with our government and private sector partners, supporting our Federal Affairs Committee, and administrating our online advocacy platform – the REALTOR® Action Network. In her spare time, Nicole likes to spend her time playing volleyball, reading, and exploring Ottawa and the surrounding area with her family and dog, Reese.

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