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.

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