How should I choose a real estate agent?
This is an excellent question because buying or selling a home can be a complex transaction and you want the right person with the right expertise to help you.
In Ontario, all brokers and salespeople (I’ll refer to them as real estate agents) must be registered with the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) to be eligible to trade in real estate. So, when you hire an agent, you have some comfort that they will give you relevant guidance, are educated to deliver the advice and services, are insured, and are subject to professional standards and obligations.
Still, choosing an agent is an important personal decision, and there are some steps I recommend you take to find the right agent for you.
First, shop around. Get referrals from family or friends who have used an agent or look for one who is active in the neighbourhood in which you are selling or buying.
Interview a few agents – I would recommend at least three – and make sure you fully understand their experience, how they operate, and what services they offer.
Ask them to describe their knowledge and experience in real estate in a particular neighborhood and with a specific type of property. You can even ask them about their trading activity to understand the types of homes they have bought or sold recently. Sometimes that information is available through the brokerage’s website or other platforms.
Their approach to the buying and selling process is important too, since you want to be comfortable with their methods and sales philosophy.
If you are looking to buy, ask the salesperson how they will search for suitable properties and how they will negotiate with sellers. If you’re selling your home, ask how it will be marketed to help attract buyers.
To determine if a salesperson is registered in Ontario and is in good standing, RECO has a public register on its website that you can search to view their registration status and whether they have had disciplinary action against them.
It’s also wise to ask each agent for references from past clients and then follow up with those clients to hear about their experience with the agent.
You will want to clarify what services the agent will offer or provide. Staging, professional photos, advertising and open houses are all services that may be offered. The services may vary from brokerage to brokerage and agent to agent. Take the time to understand what they bring.
It’s important to know that commissions and fees vary between brokerages and may depend on the services you would want, so be sure to understand what will be provided and what it will cost. Review the contract carefully with the agent before you sign, and if you are unsure about something, you can seek the advice of a lawyer insured to practice real estate law..
By doing your due diligence in your search for an agent, I am confident you will find the one who is right for you.
If you have a question for Joe about the home buying or selling process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 reco.on.ca, follow on Twitter @RECOhelps or on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/RECOhelps.