Real estate agents are sleazebags, landlords are greedy and land developers are ruthless and care only about themselves. That's the stereotype, right? It must be true... except it isn't. In fact, Canadian real estate professionals annually give massive amounts of time and money to help out their communities, national charities and people in need around the world.
In 2012, Realtors raised and donated more than $30.6 million to charity, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). That includes the largest charitable bequest to a single beneficiary in British Columbia's history, when William (Bill) McCarthy of WPJ McCarthy and Company of Burnaby gifted $21.4 million to the B.C. Cancer Foundation. The gift was on behalf of the Jambor-McCarthy legacy, which he established with his late grandfather John Jambor.
All of the major real estate companies in Canada have their own preferred charities. Royal LePage has a foundation to support shelters for women and children across Canada. The favoured charity for Re/Max is the Children's Miracle Network, but both companies also have events for other charities as well. Century 21 is a long-time supporter of Easter Seals, while Sutton Group has the Sutton Spirit program to encourage offices to help out local charities.
Organized real estate also has a strong charitable side. CREA has the Realtors Care foundation. It originated in Vancouver in the 1990s when the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver held its first Realtors Care Blanket Drive, collecting blankets and warm clothing for those in need in their communities. This year the drive, which now includes other neighbouring real estate boards, collected enough blankets and warm clothes to help 20,000 people in the Lower Mainland.
Most provincial associations also have charitable foundations and real estate boards are constantly holding golf tournaments, gala parties, auctions and other events to collect for charities.
Individual real estate professionals are also doing their part. Recently Peter Dupuis and Sid Landolt, principals with S&P Destination Properties, announced World Housing, which they call the “world's first one-on-one gifting model.”
The idea was inspired when they met Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, on a flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles. For every pair of shoes purchased from TOMS shoes, the company gives a pair of shoes to a child in need. Dupuis and Landolt began thinking about how this model could be applied to the poorest people in the world - those who live in slum housing and sustain themselves by scavenging in garbage dump communities. World Housing says more than 120 million people around the world earn a living by scavenging urban landfills and that more than 1.1 billion people live in shacks and shanties that are considered un-inhabitable.
Dupuis spent three years researching the idea and visiting garbage dump communities in Africa, South America and India and conducting interviews with more than 100 developers, buyers, social entrepreneurs and “dump dwellers”.
In January 2013, with a roster of co-founders who are well known in the real estate and business communities in Canada, World Housing was launched.
Here's how it works: Developers and developer teams that sign on to the program are charged a set fee (for example, $2,900 US) for every home they sell. The money comes from the developers' marketing budgets and is not to be passed on to home buyers.
Each home costs $2,500 to build. The homes are built of metal and are on stilts, because landfill areas commonly have problems with infestations and flooding. Each home offers an average of 130 sq. ft. of living space and additional 130 sq. ft. of space below. The houses have locking doors and windows and are insulated and ventilated. There is a rainwater collection system. The homes come with outlets where electricity is available.
Local labourers are used to build the houses, which are located near the garbage dumps where the families are living. They houses are designed so they can be easily relocated if necessary.
World Housing is not a charity or a non-profit because it does not rely on donations. The first homes have been built in Cambodia and the organization plans to provide homes to 30,000 people by 2020.
Many other individual real estate agents and brokers have done remarkable things to assist local charities. Several of them have run, walked, cycled or motorcycled across Canada to raise funds.
Bruce Johnson of Re/Max of Wasaga Beach in Ontario, along with his 13-year-old daughter Holly, recently took a six-week motorcycle trip to Costa Rica to raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network.
Colt Charlebois of Keller Williams Ottawa Realty spearheaded a campaign to collect 1,000 coats and snowsuits for local charities.
Every time she makes a sale, Michele Holmes of Holmes Realty in Sidney, B.C. donates a wheelchair to a person in a developing country. So far she has donated more than 700 wheelchairs, worth more than $100,000.
Recent real estate brokerage fund-raisers have included movie nights, salmon barbecues, curling bonspiels, hockey and baseball tournaments, dragon boat races, rappelling down the sides of office buildings, comedy nights and much more.
Individuals spend time helping out with Habitat for Humanity affordable housing builds, travelling to third-world countries to help charitable organizations, climbing mountains, and taking part in many other activities.