I’m buying a home for the first time. What do I need to know about choosing and working with a real-estate salesperson?

I understand how stressful the home buying process can be, especially in our current hot market. Buying a home is a big decision that involves a lot of time, energy and money, so it’s important that you find a real-estate professional with the right expertise and guidance to meet your needs.

One of the first steps will be to interview a few real-estate agents before choosing one. You have to be really comfortable with the person and know they’re the right one to guide you through your purchase as you face a lot of pressure and decisions. Ask the reps questions about their experience, their approach to the buying process, as well as what services they will provide. Ask what you can expect so you’ll know they’re communicating in a way that makes you comfortable enough to ask questions and discuss things as they are happening.

After selecting a candidate, make sure everything you have discussed is put in writing and included in your agreement with the brokerage. This must also include the term of the agreement, the commission payable, if any, and the location you would like your salesperson or broker to focus their search. If you have any special requirements or desired features that you want a property to have, these needs should also be in writing.

Make sure your expectations about the buying process are in line with current market conditions. For example, are you looking for a home in an area where competing offers are common? Is your budget suitable for the type of home and location you are interested in?

If you’re not happy with the quality of services your sales rep is providing, talk to them directly. For example, is he or she showing you homes that don’t fit your criteria? Do you want better guidance when it comes to your local real-estate market? Be specific, because you may be able to resolve the problem and come up with a new game plan. But if the situation doesn’t improve, speak to the manager of the brokerage to find a solution.

When you sign a buyer representation agreement, remember it is a legally binding contract that typically locks you into working with one brokerage for an agreed-upon period of time. But if you’re not satisfied with your original salesperson or broker, ask your brokerage to assign a different rep to fulfil the agreement.

If you choose to switch to another brokerage, be aware that your buyer representation agreement typically has a “holdover clause” requiring you to pay a commission to the previous brokerage within a certain amount of time after you have ended or terminated your agreement.

I’ve seen situations where a potential buyer tried to approach another brokerage while still under contract with their initial brokerage.

I strongly suggest you avoid approaching another brokerage while still under contract with the original agency, since there may be legal and financial consequences.

Do your homework about the buying process and your local market. And in shopping around for the right real-estate professional, don’t forget to ask friends and family to recommend agents they’ve used.

Joseph Richer is Registrar of the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). He is in charge of the administration and enforcement of all rules that govern real estate professionals in Ontario. You can find more tips at reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.

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