RE/MAX is opening a new brokerage in Haliburton County following the suspension of RE/MAX North Country Realty Inc. Dec. 31.

The company announced Jan. 3 that plans were underway to open a new brokerage in the Haliburton and Muskoka region, where North Country previously operated. The move comes after the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) suspended North Country’s registration after discovering a shortfall in the brokerage’s real estate trust account, where consumer deposits are held.

To date, 65 former North Country agents have agreed to transfer their licences to the next brokerage, under the Toronto-based RE/MAX Professionals umbrella. Etobicoke broker Leah Ambler is set to take on ownership.

“We are confident they will continue to offer the high standard of service that is expected,” RE/MAX Integra Ontario and Atlantic Canada said in a statement. “We are proud to be part of the Muskoka and Haliburton communities and are looking forward to this next chapter.”

Minden-based Lisa Mercer is one of the former North Country agents staying on. She said coming under new leadership from RE/MAX Professionals is exciting.

“They’re a very strong leadership for us,” Mercer said. “Even though a few people, being our old owners, have done some things to disappoint me and other agents, we still strongly believe in the RE/MAX brand.”

She added it is the North Country brokerage and its ownership, not local agents, who are under RECO scrutiny.

No allegations have been proven. Huntsville-based RE/ MAX North Country owners John Jarvis and Ray Jarvis did not respond to a request for comment before press time. RECO declined to offer any further details about the account shortfall that prompted the investigation.

In a Jan. 2 statement, RE/MAX Integra, Ontario-Atlantic Canada said it moved to terminate the North Country brokerage Dec. 23 and launch an investigation with RECO. The company said it is working to rectify issues.

“We pride ourselves on operating with integrity and take all financial matters that affect consumers or our agents very seriously,” said regional director Christopher Alexander.

Blake O’Byrne, a Minden-based agent, is also staying with RE/MAX. He said he expects the new operation will be improved, including better community involvement.

“It’s a real good thing. Everyone’s really looking forward to it. The consumers have nothing to worry about,” O’Byrne said.

RE/MAX agent Andrea Strano said customer deposits and agent commissions are covered by insurance and all pending deals are expected to close as planned.

“These people strongly believe in a good corporate presence,” Mercer said. “Our community is all about looking after each other and they have assured us they are community-minded people.”

Anyone with questions about a pending real estate deal with North Country can contact RECO toll-free at 1-800245-6910 ext. 4873 or shaun.c@reco.on.ca. Customers with insurance or deposit-related inquiries can contact the same number, extension 4875 or insurance@reco.on.ca.

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