The Nova Scotia Association of REALTORS® (NSAR) represents over 2,000 real estate brokers and salespeople across the province. The Association serves its members through a wide variety of education programs, training, advocacy and administration of the MLS® System in Nova Scotia.
The Association, through an agreement with the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission, provides all real estate licensing courses in the province.
NSAR got its start through an amalgamation of smaller local real estate boards. Real estate boards from across the province, founded in the 1950s, combined in 2000 to form NSAR. This merger centralized the operations of the smaller boards, and cut down on expenses for members.
NSAR’s current President, Matthew Dauphinee, has been a member of the Association for more than 12 years. Dauphinee has sat on NSAR’s board for the past four years and says that the Association tries to cast a wide net with the services it provides.
As a member-based association, NSAR serves its REALTOR® members and provides training, technology tools, and support to them. The Association also advocates on issues affecting housing attainability and home ownership in Nova Scotia. Chief Executive Officer, Roger Boutilier, adds that the Association is the voice of real estate in Nova Scotia, working to ensure every Nova Scotian has a place to call home.
NSAR operates the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®), an electronic database of homes for sale and the details of those properties. Only members of NSAR have access to the MLS® System. The provincial MLS® data feeds to Realtor.ca, the number one real estate website in Canada, operated by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).
NSAR is a leader in offering innovative tools that make the homebuying and selling process more convenient for buyers and sellers. Most recently, NSAR worked with Realtor.ca to enhance the user experience in Nova Scotia by adding new information to listings in the province.
“We were the first MLS® to show conditional sales and sold listings on Realtor.ca,” Dauphinee says. NSAR is continuing to enhance the Realtor.ca user experience with industry-leading accessibility search functions launching in 2024.
Technology and industry leadership are two things NSAR places a high priority on. Boutilier lists the organization’s five strategic goals as: making home ownership more attainable; elevating public perception of the value of realtors; creating and promoting a higher level of professional standards; staying at the forefront of technologies impacting members and the industry; and actively engaging its membership in decision-making through diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism initiatives.
NSAR prides itself on its connection to the community and other organizations that have housing attainability and provincial prosperity in their mandate. This includes keeping communication open with the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission (NSREC) which is the regulator of the real estate industry in Nova Scotia. NSREC contracts with NSAR to provide real estate licensing and continuing education courses.
NSAR works with organizations throughout the province such as the Halifax Partnership, the Cape Breton Partnership, various Chambers of Commerce, all levels of government, and many other stakeholders to grow economic prosperity for the province and make home ownership more attainable.
“We are the primary resource advocating for attainable homeownership on behalf of our members, their clients, and the public,” says Dauphinee.
Over the last year, NSAR has advocated on behalf of its members and out-of-province owners against the provincial government’s attempt to implement a two percent tax increase on deed transfers for owners who don’t live in Nova Scotia. This tax affected many people in Nova Scotia that have been forced to leave the province to find work opportunities but who also still had property remaining behind. This tax would have also been burdensome on people with generational or inherited property. The tax had no meaningful impact on housing attainability and would punish current homeowners, so the Association advocated against it.
The Association has also helped create several programs to benefit local homeowners. It created the Nova Scotia Down Payment Assistance Program (DPAP) in 2017. The program, which was adopted by the province, provides a 10-year, interest-free down payment loan to help first-time home buyers purchase property in the province. The program has helped over 860 families to date. NSAR has further worked directly with the provincial government to change the definition of a first-time home buyer, to align it with federal definitions so that local buyers can take advantage of all programs available to them.
NSAR was an active participant in the Affordable Housing Commission (AHC) and created a report to advocate for solutions to improve housing across the spectrum. A new report from NSAR is due in 2024 to update what has been done and what needs to be done to continue to address the ongoing housing crisis.
The Association is working in tandem with its partners to ensure everyone in Nova Scotia who wants to enter the trades to build more homes has the support and ability to do so. The group is creating a pilot project, with a particular focus on supportive worksites for people with disabilities.
The Association also continues to promote the value of using a REALTOR® to the public. REALTORS® in Canada follow a strict code of ethics and subscribe to ongoing education and professional development through the Association. REALTORS® are guides to Nova Scotian communities and can help their clients understand everything from property taxes and municipal services to property values and the local market.
Dauphinee says that Nova Scotia has an active real estate market right now, one that was marked by low inventory for a substantial time. He has seen an increased interest in home ownership in the province since 2018. The market has stayed competitive because of both the pandemic and the rise in rent prices, which had become competitive with mortgage pricing.
Today, Halifax is still extremely competitive as an entry point into the market, and this competition affects first-time home buyers more than anyone. Work-from-home opportunities have opened housing opportunities in smaller towns and villages like Bridgewater, Lunenberg, Cheverie, and parts of Cape Breton, so this drive from within the market is not limited to the capital city alone.
Boutilier says, “It is going to take cooperation from all three levels of government and industry stakeholders to ensure that all needs are met across the housing spectrum,” which will be hard work—but NSAR is up for the challenge.
Nova Scotia has also seen a huge influx of immigration and migration in the past few years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people relocating from British Columbia and Ontario. Dauphinee says that, for two decades, the province saw a lot of people go west to find work or take advantage of Nova Scotia’s strong university presence to get educated locally but then find career opportunities elsewhere.
Now that working from home has increased and more businesses have opened in the area, there is more opportunity for the province’s expatriates to return for a homecoming of sorts. Thanks to this and an ongoing population increase, “Everyone is looking for a home,” says Dauphinee, so the work of the Association is more vital than ever.
Several projects are in the works for NSAR as the new year approaches. Dauphinee says that the Association is constantly looking to improve member experience, with technology having taken a big leap with a rise in artificial intelligence and machine learning models. There are some key areas that the Association feels can be improved for members and people in the housing market through these tools.
NSAR will continue to work with clients through Realtor.ca in new and evolving ways, like the launch of new search parameters to help people with mobility needs find accessible or adaptable homes. Government partnerships will also be critical both in finding innovative ways to address housing shortages and affordability. NSAR has valuable insights and data to help government in making key decisions on housing policy. Finally, NSAR will continue to ensure that its members are equipped with the tools and services to provide the best service and experience to the public on their journey toward finding a new home.