Buying and selling real estate can be an intimidating process, especially if it’s your first time, or you haven’t been in the market for a while. This article will outline how to take those first steps, what to look for, and the critical questions to ask before deciding to work with a Realtor®.
There are many excellent Realtors in the business today, so it can be difficult to know where to start, and who to trust. It’s always a good idea to ask your family and friends for professionals who they’ve had a positive experience with in the past, what worked for them, and what didn’t. You may also search for Realtors who specialize in the specific neighborhood you’re looking to buy in, as they will have specific knowledge about the most recent market trends in the area. Begin by interviewing a few Realtors to get a sense of who they are and how they operate.
Ultimately, regardless of a Realtor’s experience, you want to work with someone whose personality you resonate with, and who you can trust to get the job done.
When you meet with a Realtor for the first time, ask them the following questions:
- What are your qualifications?
- What do you know about the neighborhoods I’m interested in?
- Can I have your references?
- What’s it going to cost?
- What are your commitments to me?
- What is expected of me?
What are your qualifications?
Let's be honest: real estate transactions involve a lot of money, and they can be life-changing. That change should always be for the better! So, you want to be satisfied that your realtor has the qualifications necessary to do a great job for you. These qualifications include education and professional designations, as well as previous work history and life experience. Realtors come from all walks of life, and each individual brings their own unique approach to the table. If you've read something in their blog or bio that sparks your interest, ask them about it.
What do you know about the neighborhoods I’m interested in?
Each neighborhood has its own social and economic micro-climate, so many realtors tend to focus on developing expertise in a few specific geographic areas. It's also true that Realtors work with each other to help their clients access the highest level of service possible. Don't be afraid to ask a Realtor to refer you to their colleagues who specialize in other areas. This is particularly important when selling your home, because a Realtor who is familiar with your area will have up-to-date market statistics that will inform how much your property would likely sell for.
Can I have your references?
It's common for Realtors to include testimonials on a website or social media account. Ask for the contact information of those people, and then actually contact them. Listening to what worked (and what didn't) for other people will not only give you a clearer sense of who the Realtor is, but also help you clarify what is important to you in a professional relationship.
What’s it going to cost?
Simply put, there is no such thing as a "standard commission," and in fact, there are laws in Canada that prevent it. However, in practice, there tends to be a general ballpark range that many Realtors abide by. In British Columbia, it is the seller of real estate who is responsible for the commission on a sale of property. This commission goes to the listing agent (the realtor who listed the property and represented the seller). The listing agent will have an agreement with the buyer's agent to share that commission. This means that, as a buyer, you Realtor's services will not cost you anything. So, if you are involved in a real estate transaction as a seller, you will pay commission; if you are a buyer, you generally pay no commission. Keep in mind that there are other closing costs that both sellers and buyers must pay, beyond commission and the agreed-upon price of the property, in order for the transaction to complete. These costs include (but aren't limited to) taxes and GST. Your Realtor should be able to discuss closing costs with you at the same time that you are discussing your budget (as a buyer) or listing price (as a seller). It's also worthwhile to note that all costs that your Realtor incurs over the course of your transaction (from marketing to showing properties and more) are unofficially covered by the future commission. So, while you may want to "bargain hunt" for the Realtor with the lowest commission, it may cost you in other ways. Instead, choose a Realtor who is ready to invest on you upfront, and cover everything necessary to give you quality service.
What are your commitments to me? What can I rely on from you?
When you first sit down with a Realtor to discuss your interests, they are required by the Real Estate Council of BC to present you with the Disclosure of Representation in Trading Services (DORT) form. This is a short, standard form that outlines what the agent's professional and legal responsibilities are to you. Additionally, a Realtor will likely go over what you can expect of them if you were to enter into a professional relationship. Remember: you are hiring an agent to represent you and protect your interests, so look for a Realtor who will go the extra mile to ensure that every detail is taken care of.
What is expected of me?
In BC, you have two options to work with a Realtor: as an Unrepresented Party, or a Client. As a Client, you are afforded the greatest deal of confidentiality and loyalty (explained in the DORT form mentioned above). For this reason, many people choose to work with their Realtor in an exclusive Client relationship. This relationship will best serve you if you are open with your Realtor about your interests and motivations, and keep them updated if anything changes.
Choosing an agent is an important decision, so plan to interview about three different Realtors. It’s just as important to feel confident in their abilities as it is to resonate with their personality and communication style. And remember: you are hiring someone to work for you, so don’t hesitate to speak up about what’s important to you!