Brokers in Rankings Wrangle
Garry Marr, Financial Post 
Wednesday, May 5, 2010 - The first survey ranking Canada's top real-estate brokerages is being released today and industry executives are already squabbling over the top rankings.

      The top firm in the country by dollar value of transactions is Vancouver-based Macdonald Realty Group, which had more than $4.7-billion in sales in 2009, says the survey by Real Trends Inc., which provided an advance copy to the Financial Post.

      But the results are being challenged by Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd. chief executive Phil Soper, who said they are "self-reported."

      Colorado-based Real Trends, which has been doing the survey for 20 years in the United States, said all the data were verified by either an external accountant's letter certifying the accuracy or, if the firm was part of a branded chain, explicit approval by the franchisor.

      Dan Scarrow, the vice-president of strategy with Macdonald Realty, said since most of the transactions go through the Multiple Listing Service, they are public and easily verifiable. Any brokerage making up a number is sure to be called on it, he said.

      "We are the largest independent brokerage in a very large market and the market is very fragmented," said Mr. Scarrow in explaining his No. 1 ranking on the list.

      The No. 2-ranked firm in terms of dollar value was Re/Max Real Estate Central in Calgary, with $2.75-billion in sales. That Re/Max brokerage, with 242 agents, finished more than $200-million ahead of Mr. Soper's fifth-placed Royal LePage Real Estate Services Ltd., which has 1,258 agents.

      "It's grossly wrong," said Mr. Soper, casting doubt on the findings that did place his firm No. 1 in the country by volume of transactions, with 9,849 sales concluded. Royal LePage operates a franchise model and also has 15 offices that are corporately owned.

      "We sent out announcements multiple times to everybody, from [the Canadian Real Estate Association] to all the national brands. Every single one of them.

"We talked to other brokerages who do business in Canada," said Steve Murray, editor of Real Trends. "I'm sure somebody will be left out, but we tried to make sure every broker who does 500 transactions in Canada had a chance to apply."

      Real Trends does not charge brokers to be part of the list, but does try to sign up companies for its subscription service. "Brokerages can benchmark themselves against others and see the general trends among different brands and provinces," Mr. Murray said. "The large brokers can see whether they are doing better than the market, as well as the market or trailing the market. There is all kinds of statistical stuff that has never before been available to the Canadian market."

      He admitted there has been some resistance to the rankings in the Canadian market because some brokerages have never revealed such information before.

Of the 200 firms that participated, there were 392,898 transactions, Real Trends says. That represents only about 42% of total transactions in Canada. There were 465,251 transactions in Canada conducted through the MLS in 2009, according to CREA, and each transaction has a buyer and a seller.

      Michael Polzler, executive vice-president of Re/Max Ontario Atlantic-Canada, said those not on the list this year because they chose not to participate might think twice in 2010 as the survey becomes more well-known.

      "Our market performance speaks for itself," said Mr. Polzler. Brokerages under the Re/Max brand had four of the top 10 spots in terms of sales and dollar value of transactions.

Read more:

New Mortgage Standards to Begin April 19th.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 - Globe an Mail Report on Business

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty today unveiled new mortgage standards aimed at stopping housing speculators and ensuring homebuyers can adequately juggle their debts when interest rates inevitably rise. Mr. Flaherty stressed that Canada's real estate market is healthy, and that the new rules, which take effect April 19, would stop “negative trends” from development. Ottawa moved in three areas:
New qualifying standards will mean borrowers must be able to handle a five-year, fixed-rate mortgage, even though they may opt for a shorter term and lower rate. The government said this test will help homebuyers prepare for higher rates. As it now stands at the major banks, borrowers are income-tested for a three-year fixed rate. Craig Alexander, Toronto-Dominion Bank's deputy chief economist, said in a research note that the change could influence about 25 per cent of all new mortgages. That does not mean those buyers wouldn't still buy, but they may have to lower their expectations as to the size of the homes they want, Mr. Alexander said. Based on a 5-per-cent down payment and a national average home price of $337,000, a buyer would need about $9,200 more in annual income to qualify under the changes, Mr. Alexander said. At $200,000 and 5 per cent down, that would fall to $5,500.
Refinancing homes will now be limited to 90 per cent of the value of a property, down from 95 per cent. That means property owners won't be able to draw equity back down to the 5 per cent down payment level, Mr. Alexander noted. The government said this will help make owning a home a more effective way to save. “The impact of this change should be quite limited,” according to Mr. Alexander. “Less than one-third of refinancing is done by individuals with mortgage loans in the range of 90 per cent to 95 per cent of the value of the property. On the margin, it will act as a small negative for consumer purchases (largely on durable goods) that are financed through mortgage refinancing - but the amount will be small.”

A minimum down payment of 20 per cent will be required for government-backed insurance on properties not lived in by their owners, up from 5 per cent. “This measure is likely aimed at tempering speculative buying of real estate by reducing the leverage available to buyers,” Mr. Alexander said. “It will, however, also impact individuals buying real estate for investment purposes more generally, including those looking for rental properties. In rough ballpark terms, the change might impact about 5 per cent to 15 per cent of new mortgage originations.”

Scotia Capital economist Derek Holt, noting that the market alone would have cooled things down, said the biggest move that could affect prices is the one on qualifying, which would kick out many potential buyers. “The mortgage rule changes raise the odds of lower house prices into the back half of 2010 and into 2011,” Mr. Holt said. “… I think house prices were going to fall because of market mechanisms, but today's rule changes add further pressure in that regard.”

Eric Lascelles, TD Securities chief economics and rates strategist, projected “some extreme volatility” in the housing market in the short term as home buyers rush to beat the April 19 date. After that, he said, activity could “crater” because so many buyers moved up their purchases. Over all, Mr. Lascelles said, “the economic implications of this rule change are unlikely to be severe, and we expect the housing market to slow its ascent without crashing back down to earth.”


Here´s some interesting figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association on housing prices in Canada and in major cities across the country.

Average House Prices by Province

Jul 2009

Jul 2008

Jul 2007









Northwest Territories




British Columbia
























New Brunswick




Prince Edward Island




Nova Scotia








Average House Prices by City
Jul 2009
Jul 2008
Jul 2007
Quebec City
Saint John
Courtesy of The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
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