Last Friday, our professional association, CAROP (The Canadian Association of Rent to Own Professionals) held our annual Summit. It was a day to remember!
CAROP is the association I was instrumental in founding eight years ago, to establish some ethical and professional standards in the industry. Previously, it had been a bit of a “wild west” in the rent 2 own industry, with many good, ethical operators, but also some rogue ones and scammers. And the latter were, of course, the ones who made the headlines (“Another client achieves home ownership through a successful rent to own program,” does not exactly make the news headlines, but the story of a client who claims to have been scammed, does.)
That fledgling Alberta/BC association has now become mainstream, stretches from Vancouver to Halifax, has as many members in Ontario as in Alberta and BC combined, and includes most of the largest rent to own operators in Canada.
Annually, we hold a “Summit” where we get together in a special place—last year’s was in Niagara Falls, the previous year’s in Kelowna—for a day of input from industry professionals (each other) and invited speakers representing lawyers, lenders, mortgage brokers, realtors and investors. We all want to learn from each other and the experts, and improve our operations. And then, of course, we have to have our AGM (business meeting).
This year’s event was supposed to be in Canmore/Banff. But this is 2020, the year that will always be labelled “the Covid year.” Like most other such activities, out meeting had to go virtual! Zoom was created for a time like this. (Maybe 2020 will also be remembered as the “Zoom year.)
What did I take away from this year’s Summit?
- There are a lot of good people in the rent 2 own space, people who are genuinely putting the success of their clients first. I proffered early on, that Rent 2 Own is first and foremost a social enterprise, not a get rich quick scheme. But that reminder was hardly necessary; the theme was central throughout the day: Ethical, professional rent 2 own operators, at least the ones in the Association, care deeply about their clients’ success!
- Rent to own is a growing industry. Toughening lender requirements for mortgage approval makes it a great alternative for those who need time to meet those requirements. Opportunities for both the operators and the clients who need their help are increasing.
- Rent 2 own is complicated and we professionals need to stay on top of all the changes that regularly occur among all the players involved in achieving home ownership: real estate laws, lending policies, legal changes, in some provinces, tenancy laws. In a way, we have to play lawyer, realtor, mortgage broker, credit coach, social worker, etc., even though we may have all those professionals as members of our team. We must stay on top of the regulatory, economic, real estate and social environments within which we operate. Running a rent 2 own operation properly is not for the faint of heart, nor the fly-by-nighter.
- There are a lot of minor variations in our individual rent-to-own models, but the basic frameworks are the same. As one operator put it, “it’s like pizza; there are many flavours, but they are all still ‘pizza,’ and all delicious.”
- Since the industry is unregulated, an association like ours is invaluable in keeping the standards high and giving the public confidence that they are interacting with reputable people, giving them every chance to succeed. All our members are vetted before being accepted. My advice: Don’t gamble on whether or not a rent 2 own provider is a credible operator. Make sure they are a member of a professional association like ours before you commit.
And finally . . .
- Thank you to whoever invented Zoom! It’s amazing how well the meetings went. Both speaker input and panel discussions went flawlessly; we broke out into several breakout groups a few times; had “hall-way chats” between sessions; held our business meeting, including voting; and even had a social event to finish off the day. Altogether, we were on the Zoom call for over 7 hours without a technical glitch. We may prefer this to a location-specific gathering next year, even at a resort area like Canmore/Banff.
And speaking of voting . . .
Our election campaign in BC may be tame compared to what we see in the DisUnited States. But it’s still important to get out and vote. We may have our preferences but, if history is a good predictor, here in BC the results will not lead to the kind of radical swings one way or the other that we see in other jurisdictions. (We can be thankful for that!)
I don’t care how you vote, but if you don’t vote, you’ve forfeited your right to complain about whatever government we get.
At least, that’s how I see it . . .