My husband and I are empty nesters and we have decided to sell our house after almost 40 years. What steps should we take?

You and your husband may find the real estate marketplace has changed considerably since you purchased your home.

Thanks to smartphones, the internet and social media, real estate salespeople are more accessible, buyers and sellers have greater access to information and real estate deals are often conducted electronically.

The biggest change is that the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) was established in 1997 to protect consumers by regulating the real estate brokerage industry. Some advice we provide to buyers and sellers:

1) Interview at least three salespeople to find one right for you;

2) Visit and look your sales rep up in the Real Estate Professional Directory to ensure they’re registered and have not faced any disciplinary actions;

3) Read and make sure you completely understand any documents you’re asked to sign; if you don’t understand something, ask your salesperson or real estate lawyer to explain it; and

4) Be an active participant in the process; don’t make a decision unless you are well-informed and comfortable with it. Hire a real estate lawyer early in the process.

Real estate salespeople and brokers vary widely in terms of the experience they bring to the table, the approach they take to buying and selling, the commissions they charge and the services they provide. When you interview candidates, ask them how they plan to market your home to potential buyers and make sure you are all on the same page.

Many sellers are satisfied when their salesperson lists their home on the local listing service, places a sign on the front lawn and shows it to interested buyers. Other sellers may want a more extensive marketing strategy featuring open houses, home staging or a social media campaign. Others might want a high level of privacy and no open houses.

If you’re looking for a multi-layered marketing strategy, remember that brokerage fees can vary, depending on the services that are provided. Read your representation agreement to confirm whether extra services such as staging or professional photography are included, because you might have to pay additional charges if they aren’t.

Make sure you discuss open house and lockbox safety protocols with your salesperson before you give them permission to show your home when you are not there. If you don’t think that holding an open house or allowing lockbox access to your home is right for you, make that clear. Always remember that you’re the one in the driver’s seat.

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

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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