As of January 1st, 2021 OMREB and SOREB will merge to form the new ASSOCIATION OF INTERIOR REALTORS®.
During the transitional period, this site will remain active as an information hub for all members

Frequently Asked Questions

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Members’ Business

What would happen to board fees? (Would fees change?)

SOREB member monthly fees would increase $21.66/month. OMREB member monthly fees would not change.

Here is a break-down of the additional services/resources SOREB members would receive if the boards merged:

More Board Support: includes in-house no cost training, enhanced communication services, additional market statistics analysis, annual events, regularly scheduled member and broker engagement sessions, and additional member support including management of vendor relationships and a direct billing option with no credit card fees.

Autoprop:  Currently SOREB runs a lower version of AUTOPROP with fewer capabilities and features, so all members would be upgraded to the higher version.

Sentrilock:  Currently SOREB members pay Sentrilock fees separate from their board fees in US dollars. Sentrilock fees would be included in board fees at the lower rate currently paid by OMREB members. (SOREB members would receive credit for Sentrilock fees already paid.)

Member Services Portal:  a one-stop shop for member-related information with self-serve functionality and data security. Members can update their own profiles, pay dues, register a payment method for automatic payments, view and register for educational courses, track professional development hours and print tax receipts.

Tech Helpline:  On-call support tailored to the needs of real estate professionals. Help for technical issues, advice, setting up devices, trouble-shooting and more. (No service limits.)

Home Price Index:  an alternative measure of real estate prices that offers a clearer picture of market trends over traditional tools like median or average prices. Provides REALTORS® an additional data-point in the form of a benchmark price indicator to help them analyze and interpret market statistics. 

Professional Standards Coordinator:  in-house resource for members for rule interpretation and application, and guidance on navigating difficult situations. Also responds to complaints from members and the public, seeking informal solutions or forwarding to the appropriate body (Professional Conduct Committee or regulator) for formal resolution if required. 

Professional Conduct Committee:  adjudicates member to member complaints via a formal, trained committee of local peers. Offers more timely resolutions by peers who are up to speed on local issues. 

Member Life Insurance:  group life insurance with members qualifying for coverage after one year of continuous membership, providing they are under age 70, have paid their dues and are members in good standing and residents of BC.  (Existing SOREB members would be immediately eligible upon joining the new merged entity.)

 

What about other fees, besides the monthly board fees?

User and ancillary fees proposed for the new joint entity are as follows:

What MLS® System would I be using?

While vendor proposals and financial feasibility studies are still forthcoming, the thinking is to simultaneously run both MLS® Systems currently in use, Exposure with SOREB and Corelogic with OMREB, offering member choice and redundancy and avoiding the need for member to have to learn a new system. 

What is the point of merging if we keep both MLS® Systems? (What’s the benefit? How is that economically sound?)

The key benefit is that all members would have access to data for the entire service region, but without having to change the MLS® System they currently use unless they wish to do so. 

 

  • Data from both MLS® Systems would be consolidated in the background but the front-end system that a member uses today, Xposure or Matrix, would not change. 
  • Keeping the two MLS® Systems also offers choice, so members would have the opportunity to try out the other system, if desired. 
  • Since cost is on a per-member basis, there is no additional cost and keeping both systems offers redundancy and keeps our suppliers’ pencils sharp! 
     
What Lockbox would I be using?

SOREB and OMREB members would continue to use Sentrilock as their lockbox provider. However, the fee arrangement with the vendor is currently different for the two respective boards so work would need to be done to align how members pay for this service. 

How will this change how we handle interboard listings?

A merger between the two neighboring boards would eliminate the need for interboard listings and associated fees and hassle. 

How would my business change?

Members’ business really wouldn’t change much at all. Members would continue to facilitate listing and selling property with the MLS® and lockbox they currently use but in an expanded territory and without the need for interboard listings and associated fees. Benefits from merging would likely be different, member to member, depending on the nature of board services the member chooses to access.

What would happen to the board territory? (What geographical area would it encompass?)

Should the two neighbouring boards join forces, the combined territory would expand to include Revelstoke south to the US border, east to Rock Creek and west to Eastgate Manning Park.


*Rendering of Proposed Territory

Members have expressed concerns about how an expanded territory could heighten potential risks of agents practicing outside their area of familiarity.

An agent practicing outside their region of familiarity can pose risk, but this is actually one area where a merger can help. 

  • A merger would place more agents working in the BC interior on the same ethical footing and subject to the same set of board rules and a robust Professional Conduct Committee of local peers. 

Today, a member can list a property in another board’s territory, considered outside their area, for a flat fee and it’s cheaper than joining another board. 

  • If this agent conducts him or herself poorly, such as ignoring board rules concerning MLS®, multiple offers and more, neither board has the ability to address the issue because there are no agreements between boards that allow sanctioning or disciplining of agents from another board. 
  • Additionally, RECBC’s rules don’t apply because they don’t cover Realtor to Realtor issues. 

A merger could enhance Realtor professionalism over an expanded service territory by placing more agents under a consistent set of Board practice rules, supported by an inhouse Professional Standards Coordinator and subject to a Professional Conduct Committee of local peers. 

How can a merger be a good thing when the last thing I want is the added competition of more Realtors working in my territory?

A merger is unlikely to result in more competition. If agents want to sell property outside their area of familiarity and even within another board’s territory, they can do so today. Agents can technically sell property from one end of their board’s existing service territory to the other, but they generally don’t. Likewise, agents can list property in another board’s region for a flat fee. 

Currently, if an agent operating within another board’s territory conducts him or herself poorly or ignores Board rules, there is no means to sanction or discipline them. Neither their home board nor the board within which they are operating has any ability to address these issues because there are no agreements between boards for this type of situation. Additionally, RECBC’s rules wouldn’t apply because they don’t cover Realtor to Realtor issues. 

A merger would enhance Realtor professionalism over a broader service territory by placing more agents under a consistent set of Board practice rules, supported by an inhouse Professional Standards Coordinator and subject to a Professional Conduct Committee of local peers.
 

Would there be one set of Board rules in the event of a merger?

Yes. A key benefit of a merger is that more agents would work to a consistent set of Board practice rules, supported by an inhouse Professional Standards Coordinator and subject to a Professional Conduct Committee of local peers. 

(Currently if an agent operating within another board’s territory conducts him or herself poorly or ignores Board rules, there is no means to sanction or discipline them. Neither their home board nor the board within which they are operating has any ability to address these issues because there are no agreements between boards for this type of situation. Additionally, RECBC’s rules wouldn’t apply because they don’t cover Realtor to Realtor issues.)
 

How would monthly billing be handled?

Currently, SOREB member billing is handled by the brokerages, whereas OMREB members have the choice of being billed directly or through their brokerage. Under a merger scenario, this same option would be extended to SOREB members. 

  • OMREB’s new member management system offers ease and convenience that SOREB members may find attractive:  a one-stop shop for member-related information with self-serve functionality and data security. 
  • Members can update their own profiles, pay dues, register a payment method for automatic payments, view and register for educational courses, track professional development hours and print tax receipts.
When it comes to education, there was mention that members of both boards would benefit from economies of scale…can you elaborate?

Yes, spreading the cost of education delivery over a larger number of members would translate into less cost per member. 

  • For example, in 2021, it is anticipated that 24 accredited courses would be offered, not including the self-directed learning options to which members would have access. 
  • These accredited courses would be offered over 48 class days, giving members more opportunities than ever before to find a class date that suits them.   

Just as importantly, a joint scenario would enable these courses to be offered at a reduced cost of $50 per course as compared to the previous cost of $125 per course, representing substantial savings for members. 
 



Rationale

Why are we considering merging the two boards?

With a focus on excellence in real estate, the purpose is to evaluate the potential benefits to members that a merger might offer. While investigation continues, we anticipate the benefits (in no particular order) to include expanded territory, no need for interboard listings, increased board buying power and doing away with duplication. In addition, we anticipate that strength in numbers would enable a joint board to bring a more powerful voice to reinforce value of the Realtor and help combat new market entrants that might disrupt the Realtor’s role as trusted advisor with consumers. 

Given that SOREB proposed this to OMREB, what problems was SOREB trying to solve by proposing amalgamation? (SOREB’s current President responds.)

(SOREB President Lyndi Cruickshank discussed this at the October 28th Coffee Chat session). SOREB is a small board with limited resources in terms of members available and willing to participate on the board and on committees. SOREB is also limited in its financial resources and, as a result, has consistently run a deficit budget for many years. While the board has leveraged relationships with other boards where they have strengths SOREB lacks, this approach to serving members is not sustainable. For example:

  • Fraser Valley Board has been handling SOREB’s professional standards files
  • OMREB’s on-staff communication specialist has been helping out with member communications, and
  • The Kootenay board has made it possible to offer more education offerings. 

When considering how best to serve members in future, SOREB Directors realized that SOREB wasn’t really sharing resources, but borrowing them instead, a situation difficult to maintain long term. 

 

  • The Directors considered a range of options to remedy the situation, reviewing different models and dialoguing with different boards. Ultimately, they concluded that the best option for SOREB members was a merger with OMREB. 
  • SOREB approached OMREB in August of this year with the proposal. OMREB Directors reviewed it in September, concluded that there were likely benefits for OMREB members as well and an investigation into the merits ensued. 

(See the response to the next question to see generalized merger benefits and advantages more specific to members of both SOREB and OMREB.)

What would be the benefits for SOREB members specifically? What would be the benefits for OMREB members?

Members have asked for more detail about merger benefits and the investigation has uncovered the following: 

MLS and other technical tools:  Today, both boards use Touchbase, SentriLock, and AUTOPROP (although everyone would be upgraded to the advanced version of AUTOPROP in use by OMREB). 

  • These services, along with both MLS Systems, Xposure and Corelogic, would remain in place, as would a physical presence in both Kelowna and Penticton, all current staff of both boards and the local support for SOREB Northern members.

Education and training:  Both Boards offer Education and training and this would continue but economies of scale would mean more offerings at less or no additional cost to members.  

Other perceived benefits to members of both boards include more powerful advocacy and stronger support to keep the REALTOR at the centre of the transaction; no more interboard listing fees; pooled reserves creating a greater backstop for members; expanded service territory and one set of Board rules and bylaws allowing for more regional consistency and updated to reflect today’s operating environment.

Specific to SOREB members:

  • More market data including access to buyer survey data, comprehensive quarterly market stats analysis and access to the Home Price Index tool or HPI, a statistical tool that enhances members’ knowledge of real estate market trends.
  • More professional support, including access to an-staff-house Professional Standards Coordinator and a Professional Conduct Committee of local peers.
  • Additional member support including direct vendor management; enhanced communication services and a Member Management Portal:  a one-stop-shop for any member related information including PDP hours, course offerings and registration, billing and more, without credit card user fees.

Specific to OMREB members:

  • More bang for the buck:  a merger would, in a nutshell, allow member dollars to go further because services would be spread over a larger number of members.
  • Enhanced market information as the monthly market media release, buyer survey data and market stats analysis would cover a broader territory to provide more market information than members receive today.
  • Enhanced professional support as there would be more dollars for ethics, and data integrity.
Bigger isn’t always better – how can we be sure this will achieve value for members?

This is the whole point of the investigation – to learn if there is the value to warrant a merger between the two boards. The case for a merger has to stand on its own merits and be compelling enough for members of both boards to vote in favour. Details will be shared with members as the investigation unfolds and members will continue to be consulted throughout the process.   

What started this investigation?

SOREB Board of Directors identified this opportunity in their board planning and approached OMREB in August with the concept. OMREB Board of Directors determined that the concept was worth exploring for the potential benefits identified in the response above to Q. Why are we contemplating merging SOREB and OMREB? An investigation, which started in September, would enable the boards to put together enough details to present a picture of what it would be and how it would work so that members of both boards could ask questions, provide feedback and, ultimately, vote on whether or not to proceed.

What problems are we trying to solve with a potential merger? (I’m pretty happy with my board, so why should I consider a change such as a merger?)

Associations face the same kinds of challenges that businesses do:  pressures of inconsistent revenue, changing member needs, growing consumer demands and evolving technology. As a result of these factors, more boards - both here in Canada and south of the border - are considering options to maintain and enhance great service to members. Consolidation is one such option, offering a larger membership base resulting in greater resources to provide professional and meaningful services. Within a 10-year timeframe, more than 80 real estate associations merged in the US alone (National Association of REALTORS®). 

Here’re the six most common reasons for consolidating*: 

  1. Cost savings in combined internal administration.
  2. Elimination of duplications of processes for members in multiple associations. 
  3. Better communications capabilities, methods, and platforms.
  4. Perceived increase in value of the larger association to the member.
  5. Increase in the quality of programs, products, and services.
  6. Ability to move quickly on new ideas and concepts.

*Source:  National Association of REALTORS®

Closer to home, here’re issues that are driving a contemplated SOREB/OMREB merger:

Duplication: both boards deliver many of the same services, with differing vendor contracts, service fees and support. Both boards support costs of maintaining two separate boards of Directors, two financial systems, two accounting audits, and more. 

Lack of buying power:  while both boards are served by similar-type vendors, fewer numbers of agents means less than optimal buying power. 

Artificial barriers to service:  interboard listings and arbitrary board service boundaries create unnecessary and unwarranted barriers to service delivery – a situation exacerbated by the fact that consumers have become accustomed to accessing technology that makes regional and geographical boundaries irrelevant. 

Hindrances to professionalism:  different sets of board rules, an inability for boards to sanction and discipline agents from other boards working in their service area and varied levels of agent professional support impede consistent delivery of a higher standard of professionalism in consumer service. 

Differing levels of member support:  SOREB and OMREB members currently don’t receive the same basket of services and support from their respective boards.   

Lack of power:  while both boards serve consumers in a common geographical region, advocacy on behalf of members with the public, in the marketplace and with the regulator is hindered by a lack of unified strength. 



Structure

What form would the merger take? (Would SOREB join OMREB? Other?)

Our lawyers have advised that the most tax advantageous and straight-forward way for the two boards to merge would be through a newly formed joint entity. This would bring all assets, liabilities, rights and obligations of both parties into a single combined entity under the Societies Act. Other methods, such as folding one board into the other, for example, would incur tax with the transfer of assets from one entity to another (thus depleting the total combined assets) and require multiple member votes. 

Why form a new entity? (Isn’t that costly? We like what we’ve got. Wouldn’t it be easier to simply fold SOREB into OMREB?)

Legal advice says simplest form would be a merge of both boards into single new entity, avoiding tax implications and the need for multiple SOREB member votes.  Additionally, adding one board to the other wouldn’t reflect the point of this initiative, which is to explore how we can pursue a better future together.

Really, isn’t ‘merger’ just a fancy term for a take-over of SOREB by OMREB? I’m a SOREB member…why would I want that?

No. Definitely not. In fact, this process was actually initiated by SOREB Board of Directors, who approached OMREB in August to propose a consolidation of the two boards. OMREB Directors reviewed the proposal and felt it had enough merit to warrant exploration. Members of both boards would need to vote in favour for a merger to proceed and if members voted yes, then the two boards would join forces via a single new entity whose mandate would be to explore a better future together. There is no contemplation of SOREB being folded into OMREB or OMREB taking over SOREB and the agreed-upon approach to this potential joining of forces and the outcome, should members be in favour, reflects that. 

Would a new entity require a new name? (We like the one we have.)

Technically no, a new name would not be absolutely necessary. However, if the boards joined forces, it could be a good time to consider a name that reflects this and one that is more inclusive of the territory served and the members who work to serve it. 
For example, today OMREB’s name refers to the ‘Okanagan’, yet its territory and membership extends to Revelstoke. Likewise, SOREB serves members working in Dawson Creek, Chetwynd and Tumbler Ridge and elsewhere outside the valley, yet SOREB’s name refers to ‘South Okanagan.’ 

(Update) The special resolution members will be asked to vote on November 25th includes the registered name of a new joint entity:  Association of Interior REALTORS®. This name achieves two goals. 

  • First the name puts REALTORS® front and centre, placing the focus on them as the association’s reason for being. 
  • Second, the name reflects a service territory in the BC interior that extends beyond the Okanagan Valley. 
     


Board Offices and Staff

How would a merger impact board staff?

All current staff members of both boards, SOREB and OMREB, would be retained in the event of a merger. SOREB and OMREB staff would join forces to serve all members in all zones.

Would there still be a board presence in Penticton? (What would happen to the SOREB board office?)

A physical presence in Penticton would be retained by the new joint organization, in the event of a merger, with the current SOREB staff with whom you are familiar continuing to serve members. 



Governance

How would a merger affect the ‘voice’ / influence that members currently have with their board? (Will OMREB just swallow SOREB up and we won’t have a voice? Will the addition of SOREB dilute OMREB members’ voice/influence?)

Bylaws would be amended to ensure all members are represented, safeguarding members’ voice and influence. Should members decide to merge, we anticipate a structure of geographical zones modeled on OMREB’s existing governance structure. This structure of three zones currently requires a portion of board representation (at least four Directors) to be elected from outside the Central region, OMREB’s most populous zone encompassing Peachland to Lake Country.  A fourth zone would be added to include the current SOREB trade area. Under OMREB’s current bylaws, for example, all members vote for candidates from all zones, so SOREB members would not only be able to nominate candidates from their region, but similarly vote on all candidates from all zones just as members from other regions do.  

How would the new joint entity be governed?

An inaugural Board of Directors would include two SOREB members, SOREB’s current President in the role of Vice-President and a second yet-to-be-determined SOREB Director in addition to nine existing OMREB Directors. OMREB’s current President, Kim Heizmann, would stand as President. This board would govern to 2022 when a formal Director election could take place. At that time, SOREB members could nominate candidates from their region and vote on all candidates from all zones just as OMREB members from all regions currently do. And just like today at OMREB, at least 4 Directors would need to be elected from regions outside OMREB’s most populous Central zone that encompasses Peachland to Lake Country.

Given that SOREB and OMREB’s MLS® Rules and Regulations currently differ, what MLS® Rules and Regulations would apply if the two boards joined forces?

Because OMREB’s MLS® Rules and Regulations were recently updated to align with about 70% of rules used across BC, these would be the MLS® Rules and Regulations that would apply if the boards joined forces. Please view these MLS® Rules and Regulations here.



Financial

What would happen to board fees? (Would fees change?)

SOREB member monthly fees would increase $21.66/month. OMREB member monthly fees would not change.

Here is a break-down of the additional services/resources SOREB members would receive if the boards merged:

More Board Support: includes in-house no cost training, enhanced communication services, additional market statistics analysis, annual events, regularly scheduled member and broker engagement sessions, and additional member support including management of vendor relationships and a direct billing option with no credit card fees.

Autoprop:  Currently SOREB runs a lower version of AUTOPROP with fewer capabilities and features, so all members would be upgraded to the higher version.

Sentrilock:  Currently SOREB members pay Sentrilock fees separate from their board fees in US dollars. Sentrilock fees would be included in board fees at the lower rate currently paid by OMREB members. (SOREB members would receive credit for Sentrilock fees already paid.)

Member Services Portal:  a one-stop shop for member-related information with self-serve functionality and data security. Members can update their own profiles, pay dues, register a payment method for automatic payments, view and register for educational courses, track professional development hours and print tax receipts.

Tech Helpline:  On-call support tailored to the needs of real estate professionals. Help for technical issues, advice, setting up devices, trouble-shooting and more. (No service limits.)

Home Price Index:  an alternative measure of real estate prices that offers a clearer picture of market trends over traditional tools like median or average prices. Provides REALTORS® an additional data-point in the form of a benchmark price indicator to help them analyze and interpret market statistics. 

Professional Standards Coordinator:  in-house resource for members for rule interpretation and application, and guidance on navigating difficult situations. Also responds to complaints from members and the public, seeking informal solutions or forwarding to the appropriate body (Professional Conduct Committee or regulator) for formal resolution if required. 

Professional Conduct Committee:  adjudicates member to member complaints via a formal, trained committee of local peers. Offers more timely resolutions by peers who are up to speed on local issues. 

Member Life Insurance:  group life insurance with members qualifying for coverage after one year of continuous membership, providing they are under age 70, have paid their dues and are members in good standing and residents of BC.  (Existing SOREB members would be immediately eligible upon joining the new merged entity.)

 

What about other fees, besides the monthly board fees?

User and ancillary fees proposed for the new joint entity are as follows:

What would happen to each board’s reserves?

A portion of reserves are being used to pay for costs involved in evaluating a potential merger and processing it, should a yes vote occur at member votes conducted by both boards. Reserves would then be pooled together in the new organization for the future entity’s use. Reserves cannot be returned to members because that would contravene Canada Revenue Agency’s rules regarding non-profit use of funds. 

If the two boards join, why can’t existing reserves be returned to members?

In the case of a merger, reserves would not be returned to members because this action would contravene Canada Revenue Agency’s rules regarding non-profit use of funds. Instead, the reserves would be pooled together in a new organization for the future entity’s use.

Who is paying for the investigation? (How much is this investigation costing us?)

While the boards are committed to completing this investigation as cost efficiently as possible, there are costs, such as legal advice and other consultants, needed to effectively complete such an undertaking. The boards are paying for related costs out of board resources that have been earmarked for initiatives that enhance service to members. Should members of both boards vote in favour of merging, reserves would then be pooled for the joint board’s future use. 



Member Consultation

This is a big change – are members being consulted?

Yes! A task force that includes Directors and members of both boards has been struck to support this activity, with a key part of their role to reach out to members to share details as they become available and gather member feedback and questions.

  • Leading up to a vote, it is critical that members from both boards take the time to become familiar with the details as they become available and to share their questions and/or concerns.
  • Board leadership and the merger task force is committed to responding promptly and thoroughly to member questions, recognizing that details from the investigation will need to be forthcoming before some questions can be answered with accuracy. 
  • Merger task force membership and contact information can be found at the repurposed Omreb-soreb.ca website. 
Do we have a vote in the process?

Yes! Support from members at both boards is needed for a merger to take place. This would take the form of a member vote by each board on a Special Resolution. As per the bylaws of both boards, 2/3rds of votes cast would need to be in favour of a merger for it to move forward. Leading up to a vote, it is critical to the investigation that members from both boards take the time to become familiar with the details as they become available and to share their questions and/or concerns. Board leadership and the merger task force is committed to responding promptly and thoroughly to member questions, recognizing that details from the investigation will need to be forthcoming before some questions can be answered with accuracy. 

I’ve got questions/concerns…how do I voice them? How can I learn more?

Check back to this website for regular updates, more FAQs as detail unfold and to connect with merger task force members. Starting October, watch for more ways we’ll be reaching out to keep you informed and to hear from you on this initiative.

Has the Board of Directors already decided that a merger is right for the membership?

 

SOREB Directors had already decided a merger was in their members’ best interest when they approached OMREB with the proposal in August. OMREB Directors felt the proposal was worth exploring and this initiated an investigation into the possible merits. At time of writing, the Directors have yet to fully evaluate the findings of the investigation. Once they have an opportunity to do so, they will make their decision on whether or not to recommend the merger to members. 

(Update) At the conclusion of the investigation into the merits of merging, both the OMREB and SOREB Boards of Directors reviewed the findings at separately-held board meetings. SOREB confirmed their previous assessment that an amalgamation was in the best interests of their members and the OMREB Board came to the same conclusion. As a result, both boards are recommending merging to their respective memberships. 
 

When will members vote on whether or not the two boards should merge?

November 25, 2020, has been confirmed as the date when members of both boards will cast their votes on a special resolution which, if adopted, would result in amalgamation. 2/3rds of votes cast at two separate virtual meetings – one per board –  would need to be in favour for a merger to proceed.
 

How much ‘due diligence’ have the SOREB and OMREB Boards of Directors done to ensure this is the right thing for members?

A thorough investigation into the merits of merging, including financials and a business case, was undertaken. This work concluded the last week in October, at which point both Boards of Directors reviewed the findings in separately-held board meetings. SOREB confirmed their previous assessment that an amalgamation was in the best interests of their members and the OMREB Board came to the same conclusion. As a result, both boards are recommending merging to their respective memberships.