HomeLife's founder and CEO discusses the Competition Bureau, part-time Realtors and the goals of his international company.

HomeLife Realty Services is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The Canadian owned and operated franchisor is part of a real estate family that now includes Red Carpet Realty – in the U.S. and Canada – as well as U.S.-based Realty World International, all headed up by HomeLife founder and CEO Andrew Cimerman.

Andrew Cimerman (Photo by Marko Shark)

Andrew Cimerman (Photo by Marko Shark)

In early March, Cimerman spoke with REM senior editor Kathy Bevan about HomeLife and also shared his views on the current MLS dispute between CREA and the Competition Bureau.


REM: Five years ago, HomeLife underwent what you described as “an extreme makeover” – what has emerged since then?


Cimerman: Our makeover worked extremely well. Now we can go out with pride with our distinct identity, with our Higher Standards model: higher standards agents, image and education. We have what we call HomeLife “MBA” education – Marketing By Agents for salespeople, Management By Accountability for brokers.

We also offer our agents and brokers free 24/7 worldwide classified advertising for their clients, on a site called AdsandDeals.com – no one else is offering this in real estate. Not only can our agents and brokers tell their clients that they’ll advertise their properties 24/7, they also can tell their clients they can advertise their autos and any household items they have for sale. If someone is a car dealership, they can advertise all their dealership’s cars, compliments of HomeLife; if they own a furniture shop, they can advertise their furniture for free.

We also can give clients the opportunity to advertise for free for a year or more beyond the date of their listing contract. We believe in building long-term relationships and we have affiliations with our sister companies to help us do this. That’s where we’re so different, because this is all within our affiliates’ control. We aren’t limited to 30 or 60 days of using these services. That’s an incredible value proposition for clients – the only thing you can compare with is Kijiji or Craigslist.

We also have a rewards points program that our agents can offer to potential buyers and sellers – reward points not worth $10 or $100, but usually worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Through our affiliates, we’ve built this program and it’s very simple. If you’re buying through us, we agree upon how many points we’ll give to the client – either 100, 200, or one million points, all depending on the size of the property. Then the client can go into an online “shopping mall” with tens of thousands of items to choose among, as a thank-you for giving HomeLife agents and brokers the opportunity to do business with them. Our clients can also post, if they’re between jobs, free résumés and go on and seek job opportunities – all compliments of HomeLife and our affiliates.


REM: You’ve also expanded into a number of other countries over the past few years – is this now your focus, or are you still looking for growth opportunities in Canada as well?


Cimerman: Internationally, we’re in Dubai, Panama, Portugal, Romania and Bulgaria. We’re negotiating with the Baltic states and we should be opening in China within 60 days.

We are equally interested in growth in small-town Canada. Our product has been designed in a way that is very community oriented. Jerome the Gnome, our goodwill ambassador, is doing a superb job in building relationships in communities. Our focus now is smaller communities in Canada, while our eye is on major deals internationally, to continue to expand as aggressively as we can.


REM: Here at home, the dispute between CREA and the Competition Bureau over MLS access has intensified, with CREA’s membership scheduled to vote on proposed changes at this month’s AGM and the bureau’s commissioner filing for a formal hearing before the Competition Tribunal. Do you think MLS access rules and regulations should be changed?


Cimerman: Our industry is regulated – and I mean, choked-to-death regulated – with FINTRAC and all the rules and regulations that have been imposed at almost every government level.

Now a new commissioner comes in, attacking a fundamentally strong infrastructure that protects buyers and sellers more than they would probably be protected under any other circumstances.

You want to see homeowners and investors being protected – how better can you protect them than by having the regulated parties servicing them, with strong education and strong rules and regulations in place? At the same time, buyers and sellers have total freedom for what they want to do, who they want to choose and how much they want to pay to the salesperson and the company they want to engage on their behalf.

What has been forgotten in this entire process – maybe it’s for lack of knowledge on the part of the commissioner and the people looking at this situation – is that Realtors are commissioned people. There is no paycheque. Realtors go out and prospect clients for listings – residential, commercial, industrial – at zero cost to anyone. That is not being acknowledged whatsoever by the commissioner.

Realtors go out and meet the challenge, meet the client, build the relationship and trust with the client. Why would any buyer or seller entrust a $100,000 or a million-dollar property or investment to someone they have no relationship with and no knowledge whatsoever of their expertise?

To have a property listed on MLS where no due diligence has been done, I think that is nothing but walking buyers and sellers into the hands of the courts, because there could be huge mistakes. Now, more than ever, with the costs of homes so high and any investment properties too, you need a pro to do it.


REM: What do you see HomeLife providing to consumers and your sales force over your next 25 years in business?


Cimerman: We want to be a powerhouse organization, with a big role at the local, national and international level. We will continue to build on our principle of higher standards and high quality at all our brands, with distinct differences from our competitors. My belief is that a strong education will continue to play a tremendous role in our expansion and rise and we will continue to add to our value proposition for our agents and brokers.

HomeLife’s social involvement in the community and giving back to the community is a high priority. Our motto is, for every home we sell, we’ll plant a tree in your honour. With our HELP program – HomeLife Environmental Leadership Program – we’re committed to do our part in preserving clean air and water and helping future generations to enjoy at least the same lifestyle, if not better than what we have.

The one thing we want in our living legacy is community involvement – we want to give back to the communities we get so much from. That is why we are so protective of the buyers and sellers. It’s just a way to say a big thank you for giving us the opportunity to do business with you.

Posted: 2010-04-01 07:56:58

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