We’ve all seen the reports of criminals carrying bags of money into casinos or buying luxury cars with stacks of neatly bundled bills. If real estate is the third part of this story, many may wonder just who exactly are B.C. realtors and how is all this money getting into the housing sector?
It’s important to understand the difference between the real-estate sector as opposed to casinos and car sales. First and foremost, criminals don’t show up at open houses carrying the purchase price of homes in cash. In reality, a realtor rarely deals in cash.
Realtors connect buyers with sellers. There’s a great meme that says, first realtors are matchmakers, matching the right buyer with the right home. After that, they’re like wedding planners — handling all the details around the sales contract and deposits to make their clients’ dreams a reality.
Once the sales contract is signed and the deposit paid, the bulk of a realtor’s work is done. From there the transaction involves a variety of other professionals. Mortgage brokers, notaries, lawyers and banks all handle the financial aspects of a typical transaction.
This by no means removes responsibility regarding money laundering from realtors. They have a critical role as the first point of contact in a transaction. It’s not likely that criminals who are as part of a sophisticated laundering operation show up at open houses with a business card that says: “I am a criminal.”
But there are questions that must be asked and answered as part of a realtor’s due diligence at the beginning of a transaction. Realtors are professionally bound to report suspicious client behaviour to Fintrac, the federal body responsible for facilitating the detection, prevention and deterrence of money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.