My wife and I have lived in the same house since the early-1970s and we’re thinking about downsizing. How should we get started, and how has the market changed?

You’ve been in your home a very long time, so this may not be an easy decision. The first thing you will want to do is to find someone who appreciates your circumstances because much has changed since you bought your home, especially property values. Make sure you’re open and honest about your finances, the location and type of property you wish to purchase, and your expectations about the services they will provide.

This is a good opportunity to briefly discuss a few ways the real estate market has evolved in Ontario in recent years.

One of the most important changes occurred in 1997, when the provincial government created the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) to regulate brokerages and salespeople and protect home buyers and sellers. RECO oversees the conduct of real estate salespeople and brokerages by administering and enforcing the Real Estate and Business Brokers Act, 2002, which includes a Code of Ethics. RECO also helps consumers make informed decisions by providing helpful advice and reminding them of their rights and responsibilities in a transaction. The RECO website even has a page for downsizers such as yourself.

As RECO’s Registrar, I often urge consumers who are looking to buy or sell a home to interview at least three candidates before they sign an agreement for services with a real estate brokerage. Consumers should also visit RECO’s website and verify that their salesperson is registered in good standing with RECO by using the “Look up a Real Estate Salesperson, Broker or Brokerage” search feature.

You’ll find that technology has transformed the market in other ways, as well. The internet, smart phones and social media have made searching available homes very easy and salespeople and brokers much more accessible. Real estate transactions are often conducted digitally, so contracts can be signed using electronic signatures and money can be transferred through electronic payments.

You’ll also find there’s a lot more information (and advice) about buying and selling properties available online and through other media such as the HGTV network. These days, many buyers check out homes for sale on the public online portal for the Multiple Listing Service®,®.

While it’s good that consumers have more information available to them, the sheer availability of information may seem overwhelming, or it can convince some consumers into believing they have the knowledge to singlehandedly complete a real estate transaction from start to finish. Unlike other do-it-yourself projects, buying or selling a property involves large sums of money and legally-binding contracts. It helps to have an experienced agent look out for your interests; that’s a key reason why RECO recommends hiring a brokerage.

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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