Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 1st 2015 Contents SBG4 FINANCE
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt NOVEMBER 1 • 2015
"Before AREA, real estate here was like the
wild, wild west," says Sally Singh, president
of Association of Real Estate Agents. "Everyone
had their own rules. One of the great things
AREA did was to introduce some standards.
"Moreover, standards consistent with inter-
national best practice." This from Mark Edghill,
the association s current vice president and
immediate past president.
"We were incorporated in 2012, by an Act
of Parliament. Therefore, we are the only
recognised body bonded by law to protect the
public and encourage real estate investment
and to basically educate our members, educate
the public on real estate matters.
The two sat with Sunday BG last week
Wednesday to outline AREA s progress in
bringing regulation to the industry and the
challenges experienced along the way.
The two were very heartened by Legal
Affairs Minister, Stuart Young s promise at
the recent Real Estate Awards hosted by
Trinidadrealtor.com, to make the passage of
laws governing the industry a priority during
his term in office.
They say while much of AREA s 25-year
history has been occupied with advocating
to have laws passed and headway has been
made, there is still some distance to go.
Wins and losses
"Many times the public has problems with
an agent, they have no recourse," said Singh.
This is because many of the industry s
agents remain outside the association reach
and, therefore, unaccountable to its disciplinary
and ethics committees.
Edghill said, "Because they (the public) do
not have proper knowledge, they do not get
what is expected out of a real estate agent.
"The average person does a rental without
a contract, does a sale without a contract.
They don t know if their property has been
properly valued. So when you don t deal with
people who have the proper training and the
ethical standards to provide the proper service
to the client, you don t know if they are going
to take advantage of the situation."
There are many pitfalls for the unwary.
"There are people who buy a property at
a lower price and then re-sell it to make a
profit. A lot of different things go on. You
have people coming with fraudulent docu-
ments pretending to be owners, taking deposits
and running," said Edghill.
Both the AREA president and vice president
said the organisation has been doing its part
through the education and training of its reg-
istered agents and the public, at large, to lower
the incidence of these types of fraudulent
activity (See table).
But even with all this work, Singh and
Edghill, recognise that AREA maintains a rel-
atively low-key presence within the public
domain. Edghill admitted that while more
people know of the industry now than they
did ten years ago, its actual accomplishments
remain relatively unknown.
Additionally, while it is well known among
the real estate industry, a significant portion
of agents and firms remain outside its ambit.
The Sunday BG asked the duo about this
state of affairs, particularly with the spotlight
being thrown on the industry recently through
the Trinidadrealtor.com awards.
Regarding the awards themselves, the pres-
ident and vice president of AREA extended
congratulations to the Trinidadrealtors.com
team for the introduction of a system of recog-
nition for agents and said that they were
thrilled that this was done.
When asked why AREA did not seem to
be an integral part of those awards, Singh and
Edghill said while the awards were a "good
to have," their focus has been on the fight to
have standards and legislation introduced
within the industry.
"People always ask the question: what is
AREA doing for us?" said Edghill.
"AREA is pushing for your legislation. Leg-
islation is not under our control. We have to
follow the chain of command. We have to
follow the process. Governments change. Pri-
orities of the government change. Policies
have also changed several times.
"We have had 11 revisions of our bill. A
couple years ago, a decision was made that
we can no longer continue to amend our bill
to conform to government policy changes but,
instead, allow them (the Law Reform Com-
mission) to make the changes when necessary.
When the Professionals Bill came up, it threw
out another set of changes to what we had
to include in our bill."
Singh and Edghill said when new Financial
Intelligence Unit (FIU) regulations were
announced, the association assisted agents
"We provided an approved compliance
manual. We provided training in amending
that manual to personalise it to their company,
so they did not have to spend thousands of
dollars for an individual to create that manual
Edghill added: "Yet, a lot of people like to
sit on the outside and make comments about
AREA, but do not want to get involved. It is
a lot easier for people to sit on the outside
and do that."
A call for unity
Edghill said "the sky is the limit" regarding
what AREA may be able to accomplish if it
had 100 per cent support from others in the
industry. He exhorted those who were not
already a part of association to help its devel-
opment by contributing their time, resources,
experience and ideas.
"The only way to influence change is to be
a part of change and champion a cause," he
"The same people on the outside, attend
and send their sales agents to our education
programmes. So while they benefit from the
training that we provide, they do not want
to become members. It doesn t make sense.
"Is it the cost of the membership? Is it that
they don t want to be monitored? Because
we do have a disciplinary committee to ensure
people abide by and conform to our rules and
regulations and standards of practice, which
are mandatory in any real estate market.
"People do not give it the recognition it
deserves and the excuse is AREA does nothing
for them. But AREA is working for the bet-
terment of the entire industry and the country
at large. We ensure agents are trained and
operate and function to the international stan-
dards. Nobody else is doing it. We have even
started incorporating benefits for our mem-
The fee structure to join the association
has been simplified and amended over the
years and run on a tiered basis between $2,500
and $6,000. It costs $57.50 to register an
agent. "We have the support of the World
Bank," said Edghill, "We have the support of
the IMF, the FIU, the Caribbean Financial
Action Task Force (CFATF) and the Financial
Action Task Force (FATF). All of these asso-
ciations are in support of what AREA is doing."
Singh and Edghill said the association is
also working with the Central Bank and is in
the process of compiling a credible database
of statistics for the real estate industry.
AREA at the forefront
Real estate association working on legislation
AREA's Board of Directors:
Sitting: from left: Dawn Glaisher (honorary secretary/treasurer), Sally Singh (president), Mark Edghill (vice president)
Standing, from left: Heidi Rajnauth, Natalie Drysdale, Joseph Lewis, Marisa Cipriani-Ortiz, Richard Saunders, Rachael Potter.
• Principles of Real Estate Sales (pilot
course: September 1994)
• Introduction to Real Estate: Level 1
(pilot course: September 2009)
• Diploma in Real Estate Brokerage: 2
years (pilot course: January 2013)
Ongoing training of members and wider
real estate business through seminars
• Development of an AREA Web site
• Development of Anti Money Launder-
ing Compliance Manual for membership
• Completion of draft Real Estate Bill for
self regulation of the industry.
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