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Brokerages dealing with fallout from 'misconduct' investigation at Humber College real estate program – The Globe and Mail

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The Real Estate Council of Ontario announced it was revoking the registrations of 34 people who came through the Humber Real Estate Education program in 2021 after Humber informed the regulator of a pattern of what it called ‘deliberate and organized misconduct’ during examinations.MARK BLINCH/Reuters

Real estate brokers whose businesses were affected by a “learner misconduct” investigation at Humber College are questioning why it took months for Ontario’s regulator to act in the case.

On Nov. 2 the Real Estate Council of Ontario announced it was revoking the registrations of 34 people who came through the Humber Real Estate Education program in 2021. Press statements said RECO acted after Humber informed the regulator of a pattern of what it called “deliberate and organized misconduct” during examinations.

“I’m really disappointed with Humber,” said Ajay Shah, broker of record for Homelife/Miracle Realty Ltd. “What kind of quality they are giving? Who knows how many have gone through the cracks, and those people will handle millions of dollars in sales.” The brokerage, which has offices in Toronto, Scarborough, Brampton and Mississauga, had hired three of the recently suspended individuals. “A question I’m asking myself every morning: If people got caught who are cheating by some different way, why are they still doing this online program?”

In 2021, Humber became the sole program for educating real estate professionals in Ontario, taking over that role from the Ontario Real Estate Association. Mr. Shah and other brokers The Globe and Mail spoke to now question the security and integrity of Humber’s all-digital online examination process given this unprecedented rash of revocations. In addition to all-online course work, Humber students are able to schedule their final examination for times that best suit them and take the tests on any computer. Going digital is a change from OREA’s method of in-person exam rooms, and is potentially less secure than what other professional bodies demand. Even during the pandemic, organizations such as the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada have had in-person monitoring of their accountancy exams.

Humber or RECO did not offer specifics on how the “learner misconduct” was organized, but did say that screen-mirroring software was detected on an exam-taker’s machine, which opens the possibility that exam questions were copied and shared with future test-takers. Some of the realtors who had their licences revoked spoke to The Globe on the condition that they not be identified. One said they were alleged to have completed the test too quickly – a red flag for Humber’s digital proctors. Humber said it reported the matter to the Toronto Police Service, but the details of the cases are confidential.

“I’ve been a broker-owner for 32 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Marilyn Ruttan, broker of record for RE/MAX By the Bay Brokerage in Wasaga Beach. She is urging RECO and Humber to allow more opportunity to appeal or address academic concerns, given the results could lead to a loss of livelihood.

Ms. Ruttan had hired one of the Humber students, Rashika David, over the summer and was shocked to find months later that there was an alleged issue with her credentials. Ms. David claims she didn’t receive an e-mail notification from Humber, and wasn’t aware until October that there was anything potentially amiss. Ms. Ruttan argues that rather than just sending an e-mail, Humber should send a copy of academic misconduct allegations via registered mail, much like RECO does when an enforcement issue comes up.

“I truly believe some of those people did cheat, but Rashika absolutely did not,” Ms. Ruttan said. “Humber is under no obligation to send her any proof that she cheated, and RECO automatically took away her licence. It’s shocking to me the college was given this much power.” She’s urging RECO to create an appeals board – separate from Humber – where registrants can make the case for keeping their licence. Ms. David declined to comment.

Mr. Shah is also incensed that Humber first discovered some of the issues as far back as April or May, and that RECO had also known about the allegations going back that far.

“Humber College informed RECO about the misconduct once Humber had confirmed the allegations in May 2021,” RECO said in a statement it attributed to registrar Joseph Richer. RECO declined to make Mr. Richer or any other RECO officials available for an interview on the topic, but said in a statement that once Humber completed its review and appeal process for all the affected students it acted quickly to revoke the registration of the affected individuals.

In the months between when RECO knew there was an investigation and when they revoked the licences, several of the agents in question worked on home sales, signed up clients and handled the kind of private and sensitive financial information that goes with a real estate transaction.

Mr. Shah compared the situation to a doctor who was giving care to patients while under investigation for academic misconduct from his medical school: Hospitals and patients would most likely wish to have known about the education issues as soon as possible. Worse, he says he has months where he brings in 50 agents to one of the five branches of his brokerage and he’s now reluctant to hire recent graduates from Humber. “I don’t have any kind of litmus test to say ‘okay’ or not. … I just have to assume if somebody comes to my table he did it genuinely?” he said.

Realtors who had their licence revoked were employed by a number of the largest broker franchises in the greater Toronto area, such as iPro Realty Corp., Save Max, Century 21 VIP Realty, RE/MAX Millennium, eXp Realty and Keller Williams.

Some of the students said they paid a for-profit tutoring service to help study for the exams, and are now concerned their association with those companies may have entangled them in a cheating scheme. There are several such programs operating in the Toronto area. Many are owned and operated by a registered real estate agent.

But RECO says it has no evidence that any of the tutoring services were connected to the “organized” scheme Humber said it uncovered. “If there is evidence that any RECO registrants were involved in these activities, RECO will investigate. We are also aware that both Humber College and the police are conducting their own investigations into the misconduct,” RECO said in e-mailed response to questions.

For those alleged to have committed the educational misconduct, there remains a path for them to return to real estate. Humber’s academic misconduct policies allow a student to finish incomplete courses after a period of suspension. A number of those former realtors The Globe spoke to say they will do just that.

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Business

Google real estate executive says 5% more workers coming in to office each week

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Alphabet Inc’s Google has seen an increasing number of employees coming in to its offices each week, particularly younger workers, the company’s real estate chief said during an interview at the Reuters Next conference on Friday.

On Thursday, Google indefinitely pushed back the mandated return date for employees due to concerns about the Omicron variant. The company had previously said its 150,000 global employees could be required to come in to the office as soon as Jan. 10.

Nevertheless, David Radcliffe, Google’s vice president for real estate and workplace services, said many Googlers are returning of their own volition. About 40% of its U.S. employees on average came in to the office daily in recent weeks, up from 20-25% three months ago, he said. Globally, 5% more employees are returning to offices week after week, he added.

“People are actually showing voluntarily that they want to be back in the office,” Radcliffe said. “We’re moving in the right direction.”

Younger employees and those who joined Google more recently have been coming in at higher rates, seeking opportunities to learn from colleagues, Radcliffe added.

Google expects workers in the office at least three days a week once it mandates a new return date.

Based on feedback from those already back, it is redesigning floor plans to increase private, quiet spaces for distraction-free individual work and adding conferencing and other collaboration areas in open spaces both indoors and outdoors.

Real estate and human resources experts have considered Google a trailblazer for the past 20 years in sustainable office design and variety of workplace perks, including free meals, massages and gyms.

To extend those sustainability and wellness benefits to remote work, Google has encouraged employees to buy carbon offsets and non-toxic furniture for their home offices. It also has provided free cooking classes and discounts to fitness studios near workers’ homes.

“It was amazing how many employees had really never cooked themselves,” Radcliffe said.

 

(Reporting by Paresh Dave in Oakland, Calif., and Julia Love in San Francisco; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Matthew Lewis)

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Calgary real estate is on a late-year roll – Western Investor

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With $468 million in sales – not counting the $1.2-billion Bow office tower purchase that has yet to close – in the third quarter (Q3) 2021, Calgary is on track to top $2 billion in commercial and industrial real estate sales this year, according to Altus Group.

Meanwhile housing sales in November reached 2,110 transactions, just shy of the record for the month set in 2005, as the sales-to-new-listing ratio hit a blistering 100 per cent.

Altus reports that the Calgary’s commercial real estate market recorded 115 transactions for a total investment volume of $468 million in the third quarter, bringing the total investment volume for the year close to $2 billion. The total sales volume was up 37 per cent from the first three quarters of 2020.

Industrial sales led the commercial and industrial assets investment parade in the third quarter, with 27 transactions valued at $188 million. This sector was dominated by two substantial distribution logistics centre deals. These were the $69.7 million purchase of a Canadian Tire 496,000-square-foot distribution centre by Skyline Commercial Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT); and the $32.18 million sale of the Valad Construction headquarters industrial and office complex to Nexus REIT.

The ICI (industrial-commercial-institutional) land sector was the second most active in terms of dollar volume with 38 transactions amounting to $83 million, up 62 per cent from Q3 of 2020.

The multi-family rental apartment sector saw 15 transactions totalling $82 million, a 70 per cent increase from the same point last year, and only a marginal decrease from the previous quarter.

The retail sector tallied $44 million in transactions amounting to a 110 per cent increase from Q3 2020.

The biggest retail sale was the $8.35 million purchase of the Hansen Ranch Plaza, a near-12,000-square-foot retail centre in northwest Calgary, bought by local investors.

“Calgary’s beleaguered office market has remained flat, with five transactions amounting to $15 million, a negligible change from the same quarter last year,” noted Ben Tatterton, manager of data solutions at Altus, who prepared the Calgary report with national research manager Krut DSesai.

The landmark sale of the Bow office tower will be registered in a future quarter, Altus noted.

The two-million-square-foot Bow tower was purchased in August from Toronto-based H&R REIT by Oak Street Real Estate Capital, of Chicago, for $1.216 million, in a deal expected to close by the end of this year.

The Calgary Real Estate Board (CREB) reported a rush of home buyers in November.

“Lending rates are expected to increase next year, which has created a sense of urgency among purchasers who want to get into the housing market before rates rise,” said CREB chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie. She added that supply levels have tightened, causing prices to rise.

The benchmark composite home price in November was $461,000, up nearly 9 per cent from November of 2020, according to Lurie.

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Saskatchewan real estate market conditions making it hard for buyers: realtors – Globalnews.ca

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Saskatoon real estate agent Warren Ens says the current real estate market conditions in Saskatchewan aren’t for the faint of heart.

“The really good houses, you pretty much have to go the exact same day as (they’re) listed, and even then you probably are going to get into a bidding war,” he said Friday.

Read more:

Saskatoon real estate market slows but still healthy, says realtors association

He adds that bidding wars over Saskatoon homes are happening at a rate he has never seen in his 11 years working in Saskatchewan.

“(Last) Friday I got into two bidding wars with two different clients,” he laughed. “That’s not something you see too much of.”

A new report from RE/MAX shows this is the case across the country, making it harder for first-time homebuyers to get into the market.

Read more:

Canada’s housing market hotter than ever — and investors are playing a big role

RE/MAX Canada Regional Executive Vice President Elton Ash says this competition could continue.

“In March, we’re anticipating the Bank of Canada to start edging the overnight rate up with inflation concerns and that sort of thing,” he said Thursday. “That’s going to push buyers suddenly, because they’ve been looking and they’re going to want to lock in at a lower rate.”


Click to play video: 'Rural Boom: Why millennials are flocking to small town Canada'



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Rural Boom: Why millennials are flocking to small town Canada


Rural Boom: Why millennials are flocking to small town Canada – Nov 20, 2021

He said buyers from all across Canada are now seeing the value of an affordable new house in the Prairies.

“People are looking at that and saying, ‘Hey, yeah I might today be working in Toronto but I can work remotely and I can move back home to Saskatchewan where prices are much more affordable; family life will be better and I can work remote,’” Ash explained.

Read more:

Toronto-area home sales top November record, prices reach all time high

Ens says he’s seen this play out in his day-to-day job, with plenty of newcomers in the last year.

“We’ve seen people from Toronto, Chilliwack, B.C., places like that that are coming here,” he said.

From his perspective, the report is accurate in its prediction that houses will likely only continue to slowly increase in price, but he says a seller’s market won’t always make things easier.

Read more:

‘Not as crazy as it seems’: How COVID-19 gave rise to home-buying sight unseen

“When you have bidding wars and you have multiple offers it sounds great for a seller,” he explained. “But it’s also very tricky because you could actually lose all the offers because you do something wrong.”

The bottom line, he says, is that Canada is a seller’s market — and Saskatchewan is selling fast.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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