Can online tools replace a real estate agent?

Do you still recommend hiring an agent since there is so much information and advice online?

Yes, I recommend it, and here is why.

While real estate information – which is readily available online and through apps for most properties – has made the average consumer more informed, buying a home is still a tremendous undertaking, requiring significant time, effort, knowledge, and expertise. This is even more true given the current housing market conditions.

Let me begin by pointing out that most of us choose to seek professional help for various services regularly, and that is because no one is an expert at everything. Whether it is getting your car repaired, your hair cut, doing renovations, filing taxes or reviewing legal matters – while some may opt to go at it alone, most people appreciate the help of those who specialize in their field.

Real estate is no different.

If you are looking for a home, a real estate agent can provide valuable guidance and support to help you understand and interpret all of the information, make informed decisions, and ultimately to buy a property that you are content with.

It is important to highlight that real estate agents are regulated professionals who are qualified to promote and protect your best interests. They complete a robust real estate education program and exams before applying to be registered with the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO). Once registered, agents must regularly complete mandatory continuing education courses to maintain and hone their knowledge and skills. Many may develop expertise in specific types of real estate.

Generally, you can expect agents to offer a broad range of service options to buyers. These may include sharing their knowledge about housing in specific neighbourhoods, monitoring market trends, offering strategic advice, arranging showings, negotiating for the best price, and managing paperwork on your behalf.

Given that agents deal with real estate transactions on a regular basis, they may also be a good source of additional information that may not be readily available, but still be relevant to you. This could include ratings of the local schools, zoning permissions and flood plains, and whether certain areas are slated for future property developments.

All agents are required to participate in the professional liability insurance program, which includes consumer deposit insurance and errors and omissions insurance.  Consumer deposit insurance protects your deposit and may support the completion of your transaction in the unlikely event that the money is not available upon closing.  The program is administered by RECO and can provide protection and confidence throughout the transaction.

Keep in mind that brokerages offer a wide variety of services with varying fees, so you can shop around for the best fit for you. To find an agent who will best meet your needs, also consider visiting the real estate professional search tool on RECO’s website.

Ultimately, it’s a personal choice whether you conduct a real estate transaction completely on your own, or you engage a brokerage to do some or all of the work. My experience with agents is that they are very knowledgeable and their advice is where they demonstrate their greatest value.

Whichever way you decide to proceed, I highly encourage you to hire a lawyer who is insured to practice real estate law to help you prepare for and close your real estate transaction.

If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email

This column is for general information purposes only and is not meant as legal or professional advice on real estate transactions.

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, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at

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