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It’s exciting to embark on your homebuying journey. And while you might feel ready to dive right in, it’s wise to enlist the help of an experienced real estate agent. With unanticipated curveballs and emotions that could cloud your judgement, even the most experienced homebuyer or seller could benefit from some assistance navigating the process. The right agent provides you with knowledge and expertise that could help save you time and money. So how do you find the right agent? We’ve got some tips.
What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor?
Real estate agents and Realtors are licensed and trained professionals in the business of buying and selling homes. Both groups have to follow a particular set of standards and regulations in order to do their job and must undergo training in order to buy or sell property. In Canada, a real estate professional must be part of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) in order to be considered a Realtor. You can ask your agent about the type of license they have.
What do real estate agents do?
Real estate agents are a vital resource to guide you through the homebuying process. Your agent uses their knowledge, experience, and expertise to help you make informed decisions and offer insights on local markets. Beyond their expertise, agents bring a network of other trusted experts they can help leverage like lawyers and inspectors.
Similar to utilizing a guide when visiting a foreign country, an agent is there to help you navigate the unique terrain of fluctuating market trends, financial factors, and other nuances that affect how much a property is worth.
What’s the difference between a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent?
Real estate agents are required to act in their client’s best interest, regardless of whether they’re helping you buy or sell a home. But the way an agent guides you through a real estate transaction differs based on whether you’re buying or selling. The points below outline the differences between the way an agent helps you buy or sell your home.
How does a real estate agent help a seller?
Most homeowners use a real estate agent to sell their home. A seller’s (or listing) agent can help with all stages of the home selling process from listing, showing, and staging to understanding your home’s value and preparing a counteroffer to maximize the money you make from the sale.
Real estate agents also make a commission from the sale of your house. In Canada, this is usually somewhere between 3-7%. Part of this commission is shared with the buyer’s agent. If your home doesn’t sell, you’re not obligated to pay a seller’s agent. Here’s how it usually works:
- The seller’s agent’s first role is determining the correct list price for your home. The agent will price the home based on their knowledge of the market and similar home sales in the neighbourhood to ensure it’s competitive but not underpriced. Tip: Ask your agent about their experience in the specific neighbourhood and market you’re selling in to make sure they have comprehensive knowledge and experience in the area.
- Next, they’ll market your property to generate as much interest as possible. They will manage everything from preparing the home for sale, arranging great photography, spreading the word on multiple channels, and conducting tours. Tip: Ask your agent how they plan to market your home, and what tools they have at their disposal to help make your home sale a success (photographers, marketing professionals, access to networks, etc).
- Once there’s an offer on the table, the agent will confirm the buyer is qualified and negotiate the best terms. They will take the lead on all the paperwork and legal requirements so that you’re protected and can sell with confidence. A great real estate professional will also help you assess a decision when you have multiple offers,, as both an advisor and a sounding board. Your agent negotiates on your behalf with the buyer, before finalizing the closing. The agent will factor in any specific contingencies you have and ensure you are protected by the terms of the contract. Tip: Trusting your agent is imperative in this process because you’ll be making big decisions on a tight timeframe with their guidance. A seller’s agent will manage the entire closing and ultimately, help you get the best price for your home.
How does a real estate agent work with a buyer?
A buyer’s agent can help homebuyers sort out pre-approval, search for relevant homes, and prepare and negotiate an offer for a home. They may have access to homes that aren’t listed online before they hit the market. Buyer’s agents are legally required to provide you with a document called a Buyer Representation Agreement (BRA). This outlines details like property type you’re seeking, services the buyer’s agent will provide, commission to be paid, and other details. It is the seller that pays the commission fees earned by the buyer’s agent. A BRA protects both parties and can incentivize agents to be more proactive because you’ve committed to terms that protect them too.
How to use a real estate agent to help buy a home
Find a buyer’s agent when you start to consider buying, even if you’re not quite ready to begin today. They can make suggestions in preparation and might have their eyes open ahead of time for properties that are a great fit. In a traditional home search, you’ll often see a listing agent’s contact information as part of the property listing. If you’re searching for a home and see a listing you love, you might be inclined to reach out to the listing agent directly. But you should not be contacting the listing agent of the property you’re interested in as they are already acting as the seller’s agent for that home. Instead, you’ll want to first secure your own real estate agent who can represent you and support your best interests. They can contact the seller for you, and help you prepare an offer if you end up wanting to.
5 benefits of using a real estate agent
While you’re not legally required to work with a real estate agent, it could be helpful in ensuring that your homebuying or selling experience is a success. With so much at stake, the key is to take the time to research and find an agent you trust so you can make confident and informed decisions that save you time, energy, and money.
1. Gain valuable insights and information
It’s great to talk to friends and do your own research, but a real estate agent is a qualified and experienced resource of information. Offering insights on market value, neighbourhoods, school districts, and property values, an agent helps you understand the context of the properties you’re considering and may identify red flags..They will use comparative data to determine the market value of a property and work within your budget to ensure you can afford the home and get the best deal.
2. Sell your home for more
Real estate agents help you get the best deal for your home and assist you in navigating all the little details that help make your home attractive to buyers. From staging and open houses to legalities and paperwork, a real estate agent takes a fee but also provides benefits that make you more money. The best real estate agents understand the value of specific features in your home and can use their intel to sell your home for more.
3. Navigate decision-making confidently
A great real estate professional will help you assess a decision when you have multiple offers coming in. Agents also have a tested network of legal, professional, and community advisors that help them give you the best advice and lead you in a direction that’s right for you. When you’re ready for an inspection, require a home photographer, or need a contract, a real estate agent is ready with resources to help you make a decision with confidence.
4. Negotiating prowess
Your real estate agent’s understanding of neighbourhoods, trends, analytics, and home pricing gives them leveraging power in negotiations. An experienced agent understands the psychology and art of successfully selling and buying a home, and can use smart negotiating tactics to save you money, and time, and alleviate stress.
5. Save time
In many ways, the search for a home is a process of intelligent elimination. Your agent can help you find active listings that match your needs and preferences — as soon as they hit the market or even before. In turn, this will save you time spent on properties that aren’t right for you.. Your agent can also help explain and navigate the details of daunting property transactions and paperwork, guiding you through the process. In a competitive market, where inventory is low, time is of the essence. Your agent will also use their connections to help you source other professionals, so you save time and feel confident about who you’re hiring.
Okay, so do I need an agent?
While the discovery phase of homebuying can be fun, there’s a big step between aspirational browsing and putting in an offer. A Realtor or real estate agent is vital in supporting and guiding you as you make important decisions at each phase of your real estate journey. And while you may have family or friends willing to offer advice from their own experiences, having the input of an outside professional, like your agent, can prove invaluable in ensuring you act in your own best interests and make the most out of the transaction.
Plus, most agents make themselves available when you need them — even if that means working evenings and weekends on your behalf.
How to find and choose the right real estate agent
A great real estate agent is motivated to find the right home for you, but choosing the right agent goes beyond seeking out a bright salesperson. A simple Google search for real estate agents in your area brings up a dizzying array of results. So how do you find a skilled, experienced professional you can trust? Use these tips to find the right agent for you.
Choose someone who understands the local market
Does the agent you’re considering have experience within your desired market and understand the type of home and neighbourhood you’re looking for? You should feel like your agent speaks your language and understands your requirements intimately as well as the housing market you’re navigating.
Consider the agent’s expertise, experience, and contacts
Ask about the homes they’ve sold recently, their experience in the field, and how they can help you find trusted guides you may need along the way like lawyers or inspectors.
Get a referral
Knowing that a friend or family member had a successful experience is an unparalleled vote of confidence. Ask people you trust if they know any real estate agents that they’d recommend. Online tools and reviews can also provide useful feedback to help you find the right professional.
Your real estate agent works for you, so don’t be shy about asking questions or voicing concerns. You can ask about experience, success metrics, approach, and knowledge of the market you’ll be buying in. Tell the agent you’re considering what your goals are (high selling price, a good school district, a condo close to work) and see how they communicate their ability to meet your goals.
Trust your instincts
Choosing the right house is a logical and personal decision, and so is finding the right real estate agent. If you’re looking for an agent who is aggressive and assertive in negotiations, you might choose an agent who consistently sells properties above asking. But if you’re easily overwhelmed by the homebuying journey, you might also benefit from an agent who takes time to thoughtfully explain the nuances of each step, guiding you along the way with patience. Make sure to pick someone who’s passionate and present. A great real estate agent may have a lot of clients, so ask about the hours they’ll be working for you and look for enthusiasm on their end. An agent who is determined to find you the right home will be sourcing active listings you wouldn’t have found otherwise and will be focused on your needs right from the start. Notice whether they’re on time, how hard it is to get them on the phone, and how they frame their availability to make sure you have someone who’s going to care about you finding the right home just as much as you do –– and get you the best offer available too!
It’s a myth that you need to choose the first agent you come across. It’s actually incredibly beneficial to shop around for the right agent. Talk to several agents and ask them why they’re the right choice for you. Compare their experience, skills, and comfort level you have with them.
Think outside the box
Get creative when you’re looking for a real estate professional.
- Drive around the neighbourhoods you’re buying or selling in and make note of real estate signs. Are there agents who seem to be successfully selling homes, or listing in an area you’re looking to buy?
- Visit an open house to see what a Realtor is like when they’re actively selling a home; notice the way they engage with guests and the tactics they use.