Real Estate Association St. Maarten wants professional real estate agent licensing

POSTED: 12/21/11 10:00 AM

New association presents code of ethics

St. Maarten – RAM, the Real Estate Association of Sint Maarten, means business. Established just four months ago, the association unites 20 businesses and 50 agents, and it has already produced a detailed code of ethics for its membership. Yesterday morning the permanent parliamentary committee on tourism, economic affairs, telecommunications and transport, met with the association’s board members.

RAM-President Arun Jagtiani told the committee that the organization has three strong suggestions to make: the creation of industry statistics, contract standardization and the establishment of an independent real estate board charged with overseeing professional licensing and disputes.

Jagtiani said that the association is not a merger of companies, but an umbrella organization set up to resolve disputes among agents and to set industry benchmarks. The code of ethics is already there, and it was presented to committee members yesterday, complete with the association’s bylaws.

The code of ethics addresses real estate agent’s obligations to the community, to clients, to other agents and brokers and to the association itself. RAM-members agree to obey and follow all principles and obligations described in this code of ethics. The code RAM-members have to live up to is basically a detailed integrity-agreement. It also contains anti-discrimination articles.

Jagtiani said yesterday that “there are few barriers to enter the profession.” This is something the association wants to change with the establishment of an independent real estate board. This body will oversee professional licensing and it will also deal with disputes.

Jagtiani said that there is also a need for industry statistics.

“That way we’ll get a picture of the real estate industry’s contribution to our economy.”

While statistics are important to the association, Jagtiani objects to the proposed 3-day cooling off period for real estate buyers.

“That is suited for the timeshare industry where people encounter sales tactics designed to make them sign on the same day. We would rather ask our clients to do their due diligence before they commit.”

The proposal to bind money developers are allowed to take in escrow from their clients to a maximum of ten percent also meets with resistance. RAM’s vice secretary Marc van der Bilt, project manager at Indigo Bay, said that up to now down payments by buyers are customary. “The effect of binding these payments to a maximum of ten percent will cause the costs of projects to go up, because developers will be forced to find commercial financing.”

Democratic party MP Leroy de Weever disagrees with this point of view.

“Developers had to find creative ways to finance their projects, so they went for owner-financing. But some projects were never completed and that created a whole bunch of unhappy customers. I think the 10 percent is a bit low, so there must be some room for flexibility and eventually we ought to allow payments in installments.”

De Weever disagrees with the association about the 3-day cooling off period.

“I think it would enhance sales, so I think you should not make an issue of this.”

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