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Real Estate brokerages run afoul of money laundering rules – The Globe and Mail

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Countless houses are being built in new developments that are popping up on the margins of Niagara Falls, including this one off Mountain Road.

Glenn Lowson

Canada’s top anti-money laundering watchdog has assessed fines against two real estate brokerages, one in Markham, Ont., and one in Vancouver, but critics of Canada’s anti-money laundering effort say the cases highlight some of the weaknesses of the current regulations.

On Jan. 5, Re/Max All-Stars Realty Inc. in Unionville, Ont., received an “administrative monetary penalty” of $31,000 for “failure to provide, in accordance with a notice, most of the requested compliance program documentation for purposes of a compliance examination.” It was the first time a real estate company has been hit with such a penalty since the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) completed an overhaul of its audit and penalty assessment programs in 2019. That followed a 2016 rebuke from the Federal Court that condemned what it called FINTRAC’s sometimes arbitrary penalties. So far, five companies have seen administrative monetary penalties levied since 2019, among them Quebec’s lottery commission, Loto-Québec, which faced a $147,015 penalty in 2020.

There were few details made public about the Re/Max All-Stars penalty.

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“It’s not saying your policies or procedures didn’t comply. It says when we asked for your documents you didn’t give them to us. I’ve never seen one of those,” said Jacqueline Shinfield, a partner with law firm Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP Toronto and co-lead of its Financial Services Regulatory group. Ms. Shinfield is critical of the limited information FINTRAC publishes, especially in contrast to detailed documentation provided by regulators in the United States.

“Just recently, FINTRAC had the obligation to make all these public — before they had the discretion — but if you look at the recent publications they are very concise,” Ms. Shinfield said. “It’ll be three lines and they will publish it … you just don’t know what really happened.

“I always question a regime that says it’s purpose is to encourage compliance and not to punish, when all that the publication does is effectively say ‘you did this wrong’ and points a finger at you and doesn’t let anyone else in the industry learn, other than give you reputational damage.”

The brokerage in question declined a request to comment on the substance of the penalty, but did share its frustration with publication.

“No company likes to have anything bad come out in public about them, that’s for sure,” said Michael Scriven, broker and manager for the Unionville office.

“I’ve audited dozens of real estate brokerages,” said Matt McGuire, a financial crime expert who is the co-founder of The AML Shop, a 20-person consultancy that trains and audits compliance programs. “If you look [at] FINTRAC’s results from conducting examinations you’ll find that nearly all of them have had a significant deficiency.”

“FINTRAC is well-respected internationally for its intelligence capabilities, not for its use of enforcement powers,” said Mr. McGuire, who is also critical of FINTRAC’s ability to publish claims of wrongdoing but share few details. Sometimes, he said, the reputational damage is more severe than the financial penalty. In some case studies, he said, 11 out of 12 companies that had anti-money laundering penalties imposed and published saw their businesses shut down, often because they could no longer obtain banking services from financial institutions leery of exposure to money laundering.

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“Re/Max INTEGRA takes compliance very seriously and we have taken steps to investigate the matter,” said Christopher Alexander, chief strategy officer at Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic Canada. “Each brokerage is responsible for ensuring that their agents and staff understand the regulatory environment in which they work and that their operations comply with all applicable laws and regulations. We are working to understand the details behind the imposed penalty.”

For sale signage outside a residential property in Barrie, Ont., on March 19, 2021.

Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

In response to questions about the penalty, FINTRAC spokespersons confirmed that the Re/Max branch is appealing the decision to the Federal Court.

“Canada’s assessment of inherent risks of money laundering and terrorist financing identifies the real estate sector as highly vulnerable to these threats as it is significant in terms of its size and scope and generates a large number of high-value financial transactions on an ongoing basis,” FINTRAC spokesperson Mélanie Goulette Nadon said in an e-mailed statement. “In 2019–20, FINTRAC conducted 399 compliance examinations, the largest number of which was focused on the real estate sector (146). Overall, the most common areas of non-compliance related to the implementation of adequate risk assessments, incomplete or generic policies and procedures, the implementation of a two-year review, and record keeping requirements.”

Mr. McGuire said he expects to see many more administrative monetary penalties assessed over then next few months as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental group set up by the Group of Seven in 1989 to combat international money laundering, conducts its recurring survey of Canada’s financial sector. “Our last one was in 2016, and it was not a spectacular report,” he said. “They’ve only just started fixing the things that were wrong then.”

The 2016 FATF report stated that Canada remains highly vulnerable to money laundering, with loopholes in the legal profession among other areas, scoring the effectiveness of its anti-money laundering laws as “substantial” on five of 11 measures, but only “low” to “moderate” on six.

“They have to get some numbers on the scoreboard,” Mr. McGuire said, “and they are going to be very eager to be writing these tickets.”

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Indeed, on March 22, just days after the Unionville penalty was announced, FINTRAC posted a new penalty against Park Georgia Realty in Vancouver, citing five violations related to documentation and training and imposing a $66,742 fine.

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Hot real estate market sparks warnings to potential buyers as complaints to regulator double

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As home sales in the province continue on a dizzying trajectory, the province’s real estate watchdog and regulator are warning buyers to be wary of what they may be getting into.

The Real Estate Council of B.C. (RECBC) and the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate said that in the first three months of 2021, they have seen an increase in inquiries and complaints.

Calls to the regulator were up 42 per cent over the previous year, while complaints, such as how offers were made and accepted, were double the number received in the same period in 2020.

“Buying a home is one of life’s biggest financial decisions. There are potential risks at the best of times, but with the added pressure and stress of the current market conditions, those risks are amplified,” Micheal Noseworthy, superintendent of real estate, said in a statement.

 

 

The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver says sales in the region have continued at a record-setting pace.

Residential home sales covered by the board totalled 5,708 in March 2021, up 126.1 per cent from March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and up 53.2 per cent from February of this year.

Rural and suburban areas have experienced the biggest spikes.

For the past two weeks, Jay Park has been in the middle of the buying frenzy.

He and his partner are trying to upgrade from their one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom condo or townhouse in Vancouver.

“I wish we had done this a month or two ago,” he said.

 

A condo tower under construction is pictured in downtown Vancouver in February 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

 

Park put an offer on a $1-million condo, $4,000 above asking price.

“To entice the [seller], we put in a subject-free offer, but it wasn’t successful,” he said. “They accepted $110,000 over asking price that was also subject-free.”

The hot market has led to bidding wars. Some would-be buyers have even lined up outside for days to try to get a jump on a property.

Erin Seeley, the CEO of the council, is warning buyers to do their research and be aware of risks before making an offer.

“It’s really important that buyers have engaged with their lender before they’re making offers so they know how to stay within a reasonable budget,” she said.

Seeley said some of the complaints the council has heard from buyers is that they weren’t aware the seller has a right to take an early offer.

“And the seller was really in the driver’s seat about setting the pricing,” she said.

 

Demand continues to outstrip supply for housing in cities like Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

 

Aaron Jasper, a Vancouver realtor, advises clients to avoid cash offers and to include finance clauses even if it may mean they lose a deal.

“There’s a lot of frustration among buyers, feeling pressure to take some risk,” he said.

“You’re better to be delayed perhaps a year getting into the market as opposed to being completely financially ruined.”

Jasper also says realtors are limited in the advice they can give to clients on legal matters, home inspections, potential deficiencies with homes, and financing.

‘Caught up in the craziness’

Other tips from the council include seeking professional advice before making a subject-free offer or proceeding without a home inspection, and speaking to a professional to determine how market conditions may be affecting prices.

Meantime, people like Jay Park say they are still keen to buy. Park has more viewings scheduled and is optimistic.

“It’s a very exciting time for us, but I also don’t want to get caught up in the craziness and make a purchase that’s above our means.”

Source: – CBC.ca

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Black Press Media introduces one of Western Canada's best real estate platforms helping home buyers Find. Love. Live. that new home – Aldergrove Star

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Need an agent who knows the community?

Or, is it time to look for a new place to live, but you don’t know what’s on the market?

Whatever the real estate need is for residents in the communities of British Columbia, Yukon & Alberta, there’s a new way to do that one-stop shopping – by visiting Today’s Home.

The slogan for the site is “Find. Love. Live.”

“We want people to find their dream home, love it, and live in it,” said group publisher Lisa Farquharson.

Building on the success of Black Press Media’s niche digital platforms – Today’s Home brings the same wealth of knowledge and local expertise to the search for a home, be it buying, selling, or even just daydreaming about what changes you can make in the future.

Search hundreds of listings that local real estate agents have available.

The listings cover properties around the region, from a one-bedroom, one-bath condo for $339,900 to million-dollar acreages throughout the province of BC, Yukon, Central Alberta and beyond.

Click on a listing, and see not only the realtor handling the property sale, but links to his or her other listings and social media feeds. With the click of a mouse, take a virtual tour of the property, find the property’s walking score, and learn about nearby amenities.

There are links available to schedule a showing, or send the agent a comment or question.

Want to share a listing? When you click on the share button, you’ll actually send an attractive digital flyer of the prospective property, not just a link.

There’s even a button to help determine how much you have to spend, courtesy of the convenient mortgage calculator.

Plus, scroll down the page on Today’s Home and find a list of expert local real estate professionals who can answer questions or help with that home sale, Farquharson explained.

Today’s Home offers the advantage of the massive reach that Black Press Media has built throughout Western Canada with its network of community newspapers and online products. That allows the public to tailor real estate searches based on location, price, and other key factors while allowing real estate professionals to gain unprecedented audience reach with their listings.

Today’s Home will dovetail into the media company’s existing print real estate publications.

“Black Press Media has real estate solutions in print and now we can add in the digital component,” Farquharson said.

Watch for expansion of the Today’s Home platform in the near future, she added. That will come as Black Press Media adds a new component – the development community. Developers will be able to reach a huge audience when their projects are ready for presentation.

For information on Today’s Home, contact group publisher Lisa Farquharson at 604-994-1020 or via email.

Happy house hunting!

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PGIM Real Estate, Revera Affiliate Target UK Market in Newly Formed JV

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Real Estate Sales In September

PGIM Real Estate has been active in recent months providing capital to facilitate blockbuster senior housing acquisitions. Now the firm is looking to capitalize on demand for senior housing in the United Kingdom.

The Madison, New Jersey-based real estate investor and lender announced this week it is entering into a joint venture with Signature Senior Lifestyle, an affiliate of Revera, to develop and operate senior housing communities around greater London

Mississauga, Ontario-based Revera serves 20,000 older adults in long-term care homes and retirement residences in Canada. It is also the majority shareholder of Sunrise Senior Living, one of the largest senior housing providers in the U.S. The company operates a portfolio of 12 communities in the U.K. under the Signature Senior Lifestyle brand, with one community in development that is slated to open in autumn 2021.

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The JV has one development underway — a senior housing community, or “prime care” home, in southwest London. PGIM worked with Elevation Partners, a London-based investor and asset manager in U.K. health care real estate, in sourcing, structuring and executing the venture. Additionally, PGIM will retain the firm to leverage its expertise.

PGIM and Revera did not respond to requests for comment from Senior Housing News regarding details about its development pipeline.

London is emerging as a future hotbed of senior housing development, spurred by favorable demographic growth trends and a lack of available supply, and the PGIM-Revera venture will find competition.

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Maplewood Senior Living CEO Gregory Smith told SHN last month that demand for U.K. senior housing is comparable to major U.S. markets such as New York and San Francisco, where supply has historically been constrained.

Maplewood and its investment partner, Omega Healthcare Investors (NYSE: OHI) are looking to expand its luxury Inspir brand to the U.K., and identified five suburban markets around London with high barriers to entry that are favorable for the brand’s growth.

Revera CEO Tom Wellner sees similar untapped upside potential for senior housing in the U.K.

Source: – Senior Housing News

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