New name’s strength

Readers of the WREN should have noticed a significant change on this week’s front page — the use of WinnipegREALTORS® instead of the Winnipeg Real Estate Board. 

When used by the  media, the new operating and marketing name will be referred to as the WinnipegREALTORS® Association. 

Another aspect of the rebranding is the inclusion of the tagline, “The tools. The team. The trust.”

This is actually the third name instituted for organized real estate in Winnipeg, starting with the  Winnipeg Real Estate Exchange which was founded in 1903. Under its new brand name, the former WREE and later WREB until the end of 2006, will continue to be Canada’s oldest continuous real estate organization.

In legal documents, The Winnipeg Real Estate Board will still be used since it is the name found in the province’s Winnipeg Real Estate Board Act of Incorporation which formalized the organization.

Don’t worry. Our newspaper, which was published by the WREB and is now published under the new name WinnipegREALTORS®, will still be called the Winnipeg Real Estate News. The only change to be noticed this week to the newspaper is that it is now published in full colour — the exception being when old black-and-white photos are used for the Heritage Highlights section. Starting this week, when leafing through the WREN’s pages, readers will be greeted by a profusion of colour in every issue.

Organized real estate has come a long way since 1903 when a stamp cost two cents, a loaf of bread cost four cents and a gallon of milk was 29 cents. At the time, all was not well in the real estate marketplace. To put it mildly, there were a number of real estate agents in town determined to sell everything from well-watered and boggy swamp land to properties where water was in questionable supply. Rampant speculation in real estate was a going concern and had managed, in the decades before the commencement of the 20th century, to bring a measure of disrepute to the real estate industry.

Agents dealing in real estate had proliferated to the point that the Commercial, a Winnipeg business newspaper of the era, said, “The city is supporting about 750 useless loafers.”

To use the vernacular of the Old West, a new sheriff was needed to clean up the town by getting rid of the riff-raff. Filling this role was the WREE, which instituted a new code of ethics and created the rules that mapped out the lay of the land for the benefit of the public and its membership.

Within two short years, organized real estate had made such inroads into the 

marketplace that the same newspapers that had complained of past nefarious practices were instead singing its praises. The exchange was particularly acknowledged for its role in promoting the city, a role that remains unchanged 104 years later.

The WREE’s first president, James Scott, was right when he said that “our exchange was destined to fill a place of great usefulness and influence among the business institutions of the city of Winnipeg.”

“The exchange, as has always been the case, has been ready to take part in any work whose primary object was the judicious advertising of our city ...,” added outgoing exchange president W.M. Grassie as reported in the April 28, 1906, Morning Telegram.

“It can now be claimed that our exchange has outgrown its infancy, and can be regarded by businessmen and citizens alike to be a permanent institution for good in their midst.”

The change to the WinnipegREALTORS® Association is an effort to follow the lead of other boards across the U.S. and Canada, to promote the REALTOR® name to the public and to address some public misconceptions, according to association executive-director Geoff McCullough.

“As the Winnipeg Real Estate Board, the public in some way believes it is a government agency and this led to some confusion,” he said.

Because of the confusion, the public would call the board whenever it had  complaints about real estate transactions, something which was not, and is still not, within its jurisdiction. Public complaints actually fall under  the domain of the Manitoba Securities Commission, while the Manitoba Real Estate Association holds public complaints dealing with ethical matters.

“The new name is also more reflective of what we are — an association of 

REALTORS®,” said McCullough.

“Our role is to promote and serve our membership (both residential and commercial REALTORS®).”

In neighbouring Minnesota, state-wide real estate is under the auspices of the Minnesota Association of REALTORS®. Even adjacent Saskatchewan’s organized real estate incorporates the use of REALTOR® in its name. In Ontario, there is the REALTORS® Association of Hamilton-Burlington.

WinnipegREALTORS® is meant to reinforce the REALTOR® brand and communicate the value of using a REALTOR® to the public, added incoming 2007 association president Wes Schollenberg. “It tells the public we are professionals with high standards.”

To launch the new brand name, Schollenberg, this evening (Friday, January 12), will be dropping the puck for the start of the Manitoba Moose game against the Hamilton Bulldogs. 

With the signing of a reciprocal agreement, the REALTOR® trademark will now be displayed year-round on the MTS Centre’s super-sized billboard.

“There is strength in numbers,” added McCullough, “and one of our primary brands — REALTOR® — is now out there all the time (the others are Multiple Listing Service®, MLS® and ICX®).”

Schollenberg said the new name will tell the public that local REALTORS® belong to the largest trade organizations in North America. REALTOR® is a brand name controlled by national real estate associations in both Canada and the U.S. and REALTOR® is now making inroads within Mexico.

What’s in a name? 

In the case of the new name change to WinnipegREALTORS®, literally everything, it seems.