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Sunday, April 20, 2014

RECBC and MAC Marketing Solutions: where things stand - UPDATED




It was just over a year ago,  April 19th, 2013 to be exact, that CBC-TV reporter Matthew Black told us that he:
"wrote RECBC and was told their investigation is still ongoing. They couldn't say when it would conclude saying it depends on 'the volume of complaints' being looked into and 'how involved' the investigation needs to be."
Finally, after a year long wait, we have some answers to give you.

The Real Estate Council of British Columbia bills itself as a regulatory agency established by the provincial government in 1958. Its mandate is to protect the public interest by enforcing the licensing and licensee conduct requirements of the Real Estate Services Act.

When the media manipulaton firestorm triggered by MAC Marketing Solutions' publicity stunt exploded in the news back in February 2013, a file was opened with the RECBC.

According to Jessica Gossen, Legal Counsel for the RECBC, an investigation into the matter was completed in July 2013 and a notice of hearing originally issued for November 2013. Gossen then says that a Notice of Hearing was forwarded to the Licensee with a hearing date of May 13, and 14, 2014.

Well now it seems that hearing won't be happening at all.

Gossen says that the RECBC will be now be proceeding by way of a 'consent proposal'. 

So what is a 'consent proposal'?

The BC Real Estate Act allows for a licensee to make a proposal for settlement of a disciplinary matter which involves an admission of professional misconduct and an agreement as to the penalty for such conduct. This proposal is then put to a Consent Order Review Committee. From the RECBC website:
Consent Orders 
In the event that a licensee wishes to admit the allegations and consents to a Discipline Committee making a specified order under section 43 of the Real Estate Services Act, the licensee may make a proposal under section 41 to settle the matter by way of a consent order. This process avoids the necessity of a formal hearing and can save considerable time and expense for the licensee. A proposal includes an agreed statement of facts, appropriate admissions and a request as to outcome on terms acceptable to Council legal staff. Written notice must be given to the Council at least 14 days before the hearing date. The Council’s legal staff can assist in the preparation of the proposal. It should be noted that monetary penalties and expenses incurred by the Council in the enforcement of the provisions of the Real Estate Services Act can be recovered by the Council through this process.

Once a draft proposal has been settled by the licensee and the Council’s legal staff, it will then be reviewed by a Discipline Committee called a Consent Order Review Committee. This committee may accept, reject or counter the proposal. If the proposal is accepted, the committee will issue a consent order on the terms set out in the proposal. As part of the consent order process, the licensee is required to waive their right to appeal. As with any Council decision, the Superintendent of Real Estate has the right to appeal a consent order. If a licensee and the Council legal staff cannot agree on the facts or what would be an appropriate penalty, a formal hearing will be scheduled.
Presumably this means MAC Marketing Solutions is prepared to admit professional misconduct in this matter.

As of now, the 'consent order' proposed by MAC has not been presented to the Consent Order Review Committee so it's unclear when a determination/agreement will be made in this case.

Two thing are certain tho. This is a very significant case for the RECBC, and it will be making a decision very soon. 

The actions of all the MAC employees at that media fiasco in 2013 were in clear violation of the real estate industry's Code of Ethics. Those MAC employees blatantly acted to deceive the media/public and there are serious questions about who, exactly, was involved in the planning of that deception. 

In an industry whose core central value is trust, MAC demonstrated the worst possible violation of character. At the very least, licences should be revoked, not to mention severe financial penalties levied.

If you would like to share your thoughts with the RECBC as they make final considerations in this matter, Ms. Gossen can be reached via email at: jgossen@recbc.ca

The real estate industry falls under the jurisdiction of the Finance Minister of British Columbia (Michael de Jong).  You should let him know your thoughts at: fin.minister@gov.bc.ca

Over the past year the general theme of comments to this blog have been that the public has a complete lack of faith in the RECBC to prosecute this matter. As this case finally appears to be reaching a climax, now is the time to share your thoughts with both the RECBC and our Provincial Finance Minister.

You deserve to be heard.

UPDATE - Original TV news clips exposing story added

The original CBC news clip exposing MAC is here:


And the BC-CTV coverage:

   
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Is the day of reckoning finally at hand for MAC-gate?



You all remember MAC-gate, don't you?

That was the headline grabbing real estate media manipulation scandal in early 2013 involving MAC Marketing Solutions, a scandal that introduced us to the now infamous 'Chris Lee' and Amanda Lee.

'Chris Lee' was the fake name for the MAC Marketing sales assistant who along with MAC administrative assistant Amanda Lee, presented themselves as house-hunting sisters to both CBC-TV and CTV-BC as part of a condo marketing publicity stunt.

The duo claimed their parents would be in town from China for the Lunar New Year to help them purchase a condo.


It was, as we now know, all an orchestrated lie. A fabrication  undertaken by a number of MAC Marketing employees who colluded to deceive the public.

But even though it's been over 14 months since MAC's lie was exposed, there are still many unanswered questions about what actually happened that day.

All the public was ever told about the fiasco by those responsible was this Facebook posting by MAC Marketing Solutions president Cameron McNeill...

...that and a short email that was sent out to media outlets by MAC. When he received a copy of that email, CBC-TV reporter Matthew Black tweeted:
In an email to CBC, MAC Marketing owner Cameron McNeill writes he implemented "appropriate actions" vs employees who duped media and that he accepted the resignation of a "MAC senior manager." But, McNeill won't comment on specifics, citing privacy concerns. Statement from MAC Marketing doesn't elaborate on what "decisive actions" it took, or who was fired/resigned after duping media.
The shroud of mystery is highly disconcerting because there were a number of MAC Marketing Solutions employees involved in the media sham. And no one knows the actual extent of their involvement. 

We've already mentioned the fictitious 'Chris Lee' and her 'sister' Amanda Lee...


… but there was also Nic Jensen, the lead MAC executive on site that day:


There was the MAC sales rep who quarterbacked the fake couple through the display suite as part of the phoney presentation. She obviously knew these fake buyers were really her co-workers:


and, finally there was the MAC sales director who is said to have set up the photo shoot, Melanie Briggs.

CBC-TV reporter Matthew Black advises Briggs organized the press gig and was supposed to be in attendance. But when the TV crews showed up, Black states she was a  no-show.

Was she involved in the pre-planning of this deception?


And what of MAC president Cameron McNeill. Was this really planned and executed without his knowledge?

What we do know for sure is that all the players in attendance before the TV cameras that day purposefully lied to and deceived the media/public.

These actions raise huge questions about their character and ability to be licensed in the real estate industry.

According to the British Columbia edition of the Canadian Real Estate Association's Realtor Code of Ethics:
The REALTOR® Code of Ethics of The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) is universally recognized by real estate professionals and consumers alike as the measure of professionalism in real estate. The REALTOR® Code is intended to define the high standard of performance the public has a right to expect from those licensed to display the REALTOR® trademark.

As REALTORS®, we accept a personal obligation to the public and to our profession. The Code of Ethics of The Canadian Real Estate Association embodies these obligations.

As REALTORS®, we are committed to:
• Professional competent service
• Absolute honesty and integrity in business dealings
• Co-operation with and fairness to all
• Personal accountability through compliance with CREA's Standards of Business Practice
To meet their obligations, REALTORS® pledge to observe the spirit of the Code in all of their activities and conduct their business in accordance with the Standards of Business Practice and the Golden Rule — Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Article 15: Advertising Claims
Claims or offerings in Advertising must be accurate, clear and understandable.
The actions of all the MAC employees at the media op that day were in clear violation of the real estate industry's Code of Ethics.  They blatantly acted to deceive the media/public with this charade. 

When the story about MAC's deceptions originally broke, the Real Estate Council of BC (RECBC) announced that they were investigating MAC Marketing for false/misleading advertising. MAC reportedly faces fines of up to $20,000 and the individuals involved face having their real estate licences either suspended or outright banned.

So what's the status of that investigation?

Back on April 19th, 2013, CBC-TV reporter Matthew Black told us that he:
"wrote RECBC and was told their investigation is still ongoing. They couldn't say when it would conclude saying it depends on 'the volume of complaints' being looked into and 'how involved' the investigation needs to be."
As we know, the scandal didn't stop the main players from plying their trade. In a promotional photo for the MThree development in Coquitlam, the MAC employee we know as the fictitious 'Chris Lee' and MAC sales director Melanie Briggs are shown as members of the sales team.


In any other field, employees under a cloud of suspicion regarding their conduct would be placed on administrative leave. Apparently this expectation doesn't exist in the real estate industry.

Word now comes that the RECBC may finally be winding up their investigation.

More on this over the Easter Weekend (see: RECBC and MAC Marketing Solutions: where things stand)

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

State Funeral



Today was the state funeral for former finance Minister Jim Flaherty who passed away suddenly last week.


Flaherty's policies receive significant attention on the real estate front, but we will save commentary for now.  Tomorrow we return with several posts that will focus on our biggest story from last year.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jim Flaherty 1949 - 2014



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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

So CMHC changed the rules and you are require to put 5% down? Ummm… Vancity says nope.



We get it: saving for your first home can be a serious challenge -- especially here in BC. Even a 5% down payment can sometimes feel like an unattainable financial goal.

This video will give you a basic overview of how the Down Payment Helper Mortgage will match the amount you've currently saved for your down payment, up to a maximum of $12,500.
Who says you need 5% down in Vancouver?

(hat tip b5baxter)

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Median Price Data for April 2014



It was just over a a year ago that real estate agent Larry Yatkowsky replied to a blogosphere desire for median price data.

And once again Larry provides the numbers.

This month the stats reveal that the median price has dropped in all four major market areas of of the Vancouver Real Estate Market.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vancouver's Average House Price Drops From Last Month's High



As always, Larry Yatkowsky is out with the latest monthly real estate numbers and the average detached house price has withdrawn from last month's record high.

Vancouver’s Detached home average price has dropped to $1,209,542 from $1,361,023.

We thank Larry, again, for the prompt date he provides every month.

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