We’re thinking about downsizing to a smaller home. Having been out of the real estate market for many years, how do we find a representative to help us buy and sell?

Senior couple in front of home.

The weather is warming, flowers are blooming, so it can only mean one thing – the spring real estate market is in full swing, and boy is it ever. When it comes to buying or selling a home, one of the first steps many people take is choosing a real estate professional to work with. Much like you’ll be searching for a home to meet your needs, you’ll want to take a few steps to choose the real estate professional who is right for you.

A survey conducted late last year found that many Ontario homeowners (34 per cent) relied on recommendations from family or friends to choose a real estate professional. An additional 25 per cent worked with a friend or family member who is a registered real estate professional, while 11 per cent found their representative via an advertisement.

Regardless of how you find the real estate professional, it’s always a good idea to meet with at least a few different representatives before selecting the one you’d like to work with. When you have your short list and are ready to meet with a few candidates, consider asking these questions:

1. What is your experience? Experience is about more than how many years someone has been in business. Take the time to learn about the types of properties they typically work with, which cities or areas they work in and how many homes in the type you are looking for they helped buy or sell in the past year or two.

2. What is your approach to the buying or selling process? For the buying side of things, how will the representative search for suitable properties and what is their approach to negotiations? When selling, how will your home be marketed to help attract the right prospective buyers? By understanding their approach, you’ll know what to expect and will be able to determine which representative’s philosophy and methods align with your preferences.

3. What services will be included? Discuss your particular needs and expectations with prospective representatives to ensure they are able to provide the services you want. For example, when selling, will the representative have professional photos taken of your home or prepare multimedia promotional materials? Will they host open houses? What about advertising? Understanding exactly what services will be provided, and later documenting them in your written contract, will help avoid misunderstandings later on.

4. What are the commissions or fees that I will need to pay? Commissions and fees can vary between brokerages and the services provided, so be sure to understand what will be provided and what it will cost. Keep in mind that, as with most things, the cheapest deal is not necessarily the best one.

5. Do you have references? As with most job interviews, getting in touch with references is an important step before hiring someone. Speaking with past clients is a great way to learn more. Were past clients pleased with their experience? Was the representative responsive and easy to get in touch with? Would they recommend them to others?

Buying and selling a home is a major decision, so it’s key to take the time to find the right representative for you. Whether it’s homes within a certain price range, in a specific neighbourhood, income properties or condos, it’s smart to find a representative experienced in buying and selling your kind of place.

In the final step before committing to a representative, use the “real estate professional search” to confirm they are registered.

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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