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BCFSA rules on real estate agent’s $50K loan to client

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A real estate agent who lent a client $50,000 so she could afford to make a deposit on a property in Richmond, B.C., committed professional misconduct by doing so, according to a provincial regulator.

The B.C. Financial Services Authority, which investigates real-estate-related complaints from members of the public, has concluded that Wei “Vicky” Wang’s loan constituted a conflict of interest, and that Wang had committed misconduct by failing to avoid the conflict and by failing to advise her client of it.

The BCFSA’s chief hearing officer Andrew Pendray issued his decision on the matter earlier this month. It was published online Wednesday.

In it, Pendray wrote that the evidence before him supported the conclusion that the $50,000 Wang provided was a loan, and thus a conflict, despite Wang’s arguments to the contrary.

THE PURCHASE

Pendray’s decision came after hearings on the BCFSA’s fifth amended notice to Wang about the complaints against her from her former client.

All of the iterations of the notice centred on the client’s purchase of two homes – one in Richmond and one in Vancouver. Both addresses are redacted throughout the decision, as are the names of the client, her husband and other witnesses.

The loan related to the Richmond purchase, for which a contract of purchase and sale was executed on June 9, 2016, with a completion date scheduled for Oct. 4 of that year, according to the decision.

The agreed purchase price was $1,688,000, with a deposit of $90,000 – slightly more than five per cent of the total price.

Pendray’s decision indicates that Wang’s brokerage provided the BCFSA with two “receipt of funds records” relating to the deposit, one for $40,000 from the client’s account and one for $50,000 from Wang’s account.

The record for the $50,000 transaction included the note “loaning to the buyer temporarily,” according to the decision, and both Wang and the client acknowledged that Wang provided $50,000 toward the purchase of the Richmond property.

WANG’S DEFENCE

The real estate agent argued that the $50,000 she provided to her client should not be considered a loan because it wasn’t provided with the expectation of repayment with interest.

“When asked what she would call the $50,000 towards the (Richmond property) deposit, if it were not described as a loan, Ms. Wang indicated that she did not know, though she subsequently suggested that one could consider it to be a gift,” Pendray wrote in his decision.

“Ms. Wang stated that she and the client were friends, and that she had not thought much of providing the $50,000 at the time.”

Despite Wang’s suggestion that the money could be considered a gift, Pendray noted that she made efforts to secure repayment of it.

The money was wired back to Wang on June 29, 2016, after she and her client had exchanged WeChat messages about how and when she would be paid back, according to the decision.

In her defence, the decision indicates, Wang declined to say she had been repaid, insisting that the money had been “returned” in the same way one would return a car after borrowing it.

She also argued that the entire hearing had been unfair to her, submitting three times that it ought to be adjourned because the BCFSA had revised its allegations against her five times.

THE DECISION

Pendray rejected all of these arguments, writing that Wang has “long known the nature of the allegations against her” and that there was “no unfairness in proceeding with the hearing.”

He concluded that both Wang and her client understood the $50,000 to be a loan, not a gift, and that Wang expected to be repaid.

“Even if I was to accept Ms. Wang’s submission that in order for the $50,000 to be considered a loan, it is necessary that the loan have been provided in exchange for future repayment plus something more, the facts of this case lead me to the conclusion that there was, in this case, something more,” Pendray wrote.

The chief hearing officer noted that Wang received a commission of $22,538.78 for her role in the transaction. She could not have received that amount, he concluded, if the client had backed out of the purchase for lack of funds.

“In order to receive that commission, the purchase of that property had to complete,” Pendray wrote. “In order for the purchase to ever have had the chance to reach completion, the deposit on the property, as required by the contract of purchase and sale, would have had to have been paid.”

Having concluded that Wang provided the client with a loan, Pendray determined that doing so was a conflict of interest under the provincial Real Estate Services Act, and that Wang had committed misconduct.

He ordered Wang and the BCFSA to make submissions on what sanctions Wang should face for her behaviour, with specific penalties to be determined at a later date.

 

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Former B.C. Realtor has licence cancelled, $130K in penalties for role in mortgage fraud

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The provincial regulator responsible for policing B.C.’s real estate industry has ordered a former Realtor to pay $130,000 and cancelled her licence after determining that she committed a variety of professional misconduct.

Rashin Rohani surrendered her licence in December 2023, but the BC Financial Services Authority’s chief hearing officer Andrew Pendray determined that it should nevertheless be cancelled as a signal to other licensees that “repetitive participation in deceptive schemes” will result in “significant” punishment.

He also ordered her to pay a $40,000 administrative penalty and $90,000 in enforcement expenses. Pendray explained his rationale for the penalties in a sanctions decision issued on May 17. The decision was published on the BCFSA website Wednesday.

Rohani’s misconduct occurred over a period of several years, and came in two distinct flavours, according to the decision.

Pendray found she had submitted mortgage applications for five different properties that she either owned or was purchasing, providing falsified income information on each one.

Each of these applications was submitted using a person referred to in the decision as “Individual 1” as a mortgage broker. Individual 1 was not a registered mortgage broker and – by the later applications – Rohani either knew or ought to have known this was the case, according to the decision.

All of that constituted “conduct unbecoming” under B.C.’s Real Estate Services Act, Pendray concluded.

Separately, Rohani also referred six clients to Individual 1 when she knew or ought to have known he wasn’t a registered mortgage broker, and she received or anticipated receiving a referral fee from Individual 1 for doing so, according to the decision. Rohani did not disclose this financial interest in the referrals to her clients.

Pendray found all of that to constitute professional misconduct under the act.

‘Deceptive’ scheme

The penalties the chief hearing officer chose to impose for this behaviour were less severe than those sought by the BCFSA in the case, but more significant than those Rohani argued she should face.

Rohani submitted that the appropriate penalty for her conduct would be a six-month licence suspension or a $15,000 discipline penalty, plus $20,000 in enforcement expenses.

For its part, the BCFSA asked Pendray to cancel Rohani’s licence and impose a $100,000 discipline penalty plus more than $116,000 in enforcement expenses.

Pendray’s ultimate decision to cancel the licence and impose penalties and expenses totalling $130,000 reflected his assessment of the severity of Rohani’s misconduct.

Unlike other cases referenced by the parties in their submissions, Rohani’s misconduct was not limited to a single transaction involving falsified documents or a series of such transactions during a brief period of time, according to the decision.

“Rather, in this case Ms. Rohani repetitively, over the course of a number of years, elected to personally participate in a deceptive mortgage application scheme for her own benefit, and subsequently, arranged for her clients to participate in the same deceptive mortgage application scheme,” the decision reads.

Pendray further noted that, although Rohani had been licensed for “a significant period of time,” she had only completed a small handful of transactions, according to records from her brokerage.

There were just six transactions on which her brokerage recorded earnings for her between December 2015 and February 2020, according to the decision. Of those six, four were transactions that were found to have involved misconduct or conduct unbecoming.

“In sum, Ms. Rohani’s minimal participation in the real estate industry as a licensee has, for the majority of that minimal participation, involved her engaging in conduct unbecoming involving deceptive practices and professional misconduct,” the decision reads.

According to the decision, Rohani must pay the $40,000 discipline penalty within 90 days of the date it was issued.

 

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Should you wait to buy or sell your home?

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The Bank of Canada is expected to announce its key interest rate decision in less than two weeks. Last month, the bank lowered its key interest rate to 4.7 per cent, marking its first rate cut since March 2020.

CTV Morning Live asked Jason Pilon, broker of Record Pilon Group, whether now is the right time to buy or sell your home.

When it comes to the next interest rate announcement, Pilon says the bank might either lower it further, or just keep it as is.

“The best case scenario we’re seeing is obviously a quarter point. I think more just because of the job numbers that just came out, I think more people are just leading on the fact that they probably just gonna do it in September,” he said. “Either way, what we saw in June, didn’t make a big difference.”

Here are the pros of buying/ selling now:

Pilon suggests locking in the rate right now, if you don’t want to take a risk with interest rates going up in the future.

He says the environment is more predictable right now, noting that the home values are transparent, which is one of the benefits for home sellers.

“Do you want to risk looking at what that looks like down the road? Or do you want to have the comfort in knowing what your house is worth right now?” Pilon said.

And when it comes to buyers, he notes, the competition is not so fierce right now, noting that there are options to choose from.

“You’re in the driver seat right now,” he said while noting the benefits for buyers.

Here are the cons of buying/ selling now:

He says one of the cons would be locking in the rate right now, then seeing a rate cut in the future.

The competition could potentially become fierce, if the bank decides to cut the rate further more, he explained.

He notes that if that happens, the housing crisis will become even worse, as Canada is still dealing with low housing inventory.

An increase in competition would increase the prices of houses, he adds.

Selling or buying too quickly isn’t the best practice, he notes, suggesting that you should take your time and put some thought into it.

Despite all the pros and cons, Pilon says, real estate remains a good investment.

According to the latest Royal LePage House Price Survey for the second quarter of this year, the average home price in Canada is $824,300. That’s up 1.9 per cent from the same time last year, and up 1.5 per cent from the first quarter of 2024.

In the Ottawa Housing Market Report for June 2024, the average price of a home was up 2.4 per cent from this time last year to $686,535, but down 0.6 per cent from May 2024.

Experts believe many potential buyers are still hesitant of jumping into the housing market and waiting for another interest rate cut of 50 to 100 basis points.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the rush that we see in the past, because people are used to more of a conservative approach right now,” said Curtis Fillier, president of the Ottawa Real Estate Board. “I think there’s still a bit of a hold back, but I definitely do think with another rate cut, we’ll probably see a very positive fall market.”

With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Kimberly Fowler

 

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Real estate stocks soar to best day of year on rate cut bets

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(Bloomberg) — The stock market’s worst group notched its best day of the year as a cooler-than-expected inflation report stoked bets that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates in September.

Shares of real estate companies jumped 2.7% Thursday for their biggest gain of 2024, climbing to their highest level since March as investors snapped up homebuilder, digital and commercial real estate stocks alike. Real estate also was the best-performing group in the S&P 500 Index Thursday, with volume that was around 30% higher than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Arguably the most significant news to come from the latest consumer price index reading was a pullback in housing-related inflation. Shelter costs rose just 0.2% for the slowest monthly increase in three years. Homebuilders, which have risen 7.1% this year, were up 7.3% for the session, the most since 2022. Shares of D.R. Horton Inc., which is scheduled to report earnings next Thursday, gained 7.3%.

“Housing has really been the last shoe to drop in terms of winning the battle against high inflation,” Preston Caldwell, chief U.S. economist at Morningstar wrote in a note to clients Thursday. “Leading-edge data has strongly indicated for some time now that a fall in housing inflation was in the works.”

A rally in real estate stocks is bad news for short sellers who have been piling into the group, which is the worst performer in the S&P 500 this year. To start the week, short interest as a percentage of float hovered near 49% in the SPDR Homebuilders ETF, the highest level since February for the exchange-traded fund, according to data from S3 Partners.

Property owners are rallying as well. Real estate investment trusts, which were brutally penalized during the two-year run up in borrowing costs, advanced by as much as 3%. And the outlook for the group appears to have turned a corner, according Rich Hill, senior vice president and head of real estate strategy and research at Cohen & Steers Capital Management.

“We think this is a compelling backdrop for listed REITs especially as fundamental growth remains on solid footing,” he said, referencing the latest inflation data and rate outlook. “The rally that started in October of 2023 pushing returns more than 20% above their trough looks set to continue if inflation cools and interest rates continue to decline.”

Shares of industrial REIT Prologis Inc., which reports second-quarter results on Wednesday, rose 3.3% to hit their highest level since April. U.S. Treasury yields tumbled, with the 10-year bond falling to 4.2% and the policy-sensitive two-year note slipping to 4.5%.

(Updates indexes and stock prices for market close.)

 

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