10 questions to ask when hiring a real estate professional
So you’re ready to buy or sell a home. And you want the guidance of a knowledgeable real estate professional to help you with the process. But with nearly 66,000 real estate professionals in Ontario, how do you pick the one that is right for you?
“It’s always a good idea to meet with at least a few different real estate professionals before selecting the one you’d like to work with,” says RECO Registrar Joseph Richer. “Consider asking friends or family to recommend a broker or salesperson they have recently worked with.”
When you have your shortlist of representatives ready, consider asking these questions to help determine who will be the right representative for you.
- What is your experience and education? Experience is about more than how many years they’ve been in business. Take the time to learn about the types of properties they typically work with, which cities or areas they work in, how many homes they helped buy or sell in the past year and whether they have any additional expertise or skills. For example, if you’re looking to purchase a brand new home, someone with experience navigating the new home market might be helpful. Or, if you’re looking to sell, someone with an eye for home staging may be of help. While all real estate professionals must meet educational requirements to enter the profession and take mandatory continuing education to remain registered, they may have additional skills that could be beneficial in helping you buy or sell a home.
- What is your approach to the buying or selling process? Ask what you can expect during the buying or selling process. If you’re buying, consider asking how the representative will search for suitable properties for you and their approach with negotiations. If you’re selling, you’ll want to find out how the representative will market your home to help attract prospective buyers. By understanding their approach, you’ll be able to determine which representative’s philosophy and methods align with your own preferences.
- What services will be included? It’s important to discuss your particular needs and expectations with the prospective representatives to ensure they are able to provide the services you expect. For example, when selling, will the representative have professional photos taken of your home? Will they host open houses? What about advertising? Understanding exactly what services will be provided, and later documenting it in your written contract, will help avoid misunderstandings later on.
- Which neighbourhoods do you primarily work in? Does the representative typically work in the area where you’re looking to buy or sell? A representative who has extensive knowledge of the area may be able to suggest neighbourhoods that will suit your preferences while also pointing out potential drawbacks. And, do they have experience with the type of home you’re looking to buy or sell? A representative who works mostly with condos in the downtown core may not be your best bet for buying or selling a rural property, and vice versa.
- Can you provide a comparative market assessment (CMA)? When selling, you’ll want to understand where your home fits in the marketplace. Through a CMA, prospective representatives will explain how your home measures up to other homes that are currently for sale or recently sold in the area. You’ll get a sense of how long homes typically take to sell and an expected price range. Having this information is an important part of setting realistic expectations for the sale of your home. As a buyer, you’ll want to get an understanding of market conditions in the area where you’re looking to buy. Having realistic expectations of what it will take to buy the type of home you want, in the area you want, is essential.
- Do you work on your own or as part of a team? Some representatives work as part of a team, so it’s possible that the person you are meeting with is not the person that will serve as your day-to-day contact. To avoid disappointment about your chosen representative’s involvement, it’s important to have clear lines of communication and share your expectations. If possible, before committing to a representation agreement, set out in writing who your primary contact will be at the brokerage and what their involvement will be throughout the process.
- How many other clients are you working with at this time? While there is no right or wrong answer to this, it’s a good gauge of how much time the representative will be able to dedicate to you.
- How will you keep me informed? Communication is key in most relationships, and this one is no different. Will the representative provide updates regularly or will it be on an as-needed basis? Will they contact you via phone, email, text message or otherwise? What hours do they keep? Are they accessible early in the morning, in the evening or on weekends? You may have your own expectations about how communications will flow between you and your representative, so it’s important to be upfront about whether those expectations match the services provided by the representatives you’re meeting.
- What are the commissions or fees that I will need to pay? Commissions and fees can vary between brokerages and services provided, so be sure to understand what services you will be provided, and what it will cost. For example, what type of advertising or marketing will be included? Will services such as home staging or photography be included? In Ontario, commissions can be a flat fee, a percentage of the sale price or a combination of both, all subject to agreement between you and the brokerage. Keep in mind that, as with most things, the cheapest deal is not necessarily the best deal.
- Do you have references? As with most job interviews, getting in touch with references is an important step before hiring someone. So, speaking with past clients is a great way to learn more about the representative. Were past clients pleased with their experience? Was the representative responsive and easy to get in touch with? Would they recommend the representative to others?
“Buying or selling a home is a major decision, so it’s important to take the time to find the right representative for you,” says Richer.
As the final step before hiring a representative, be sure to confirm that they are registered with RECO. It’s easy to do by using the ‘real estate professional search’ feature available on RECO’s website.
Check out more articles from the Spring 2015 edition of Reconnect here.