This post is a paid collaboration with the Real Estate Council of Ontario, but all opinions and house-hunting stories are my own.
When you’re house hunting, working to find the right real estate agent is important, because you want to be ready when you find a house you like. And if anyone knows that real estate transactions can move quickly, it’s me, the person who essentially bought a house the day she (and her husband) first saw it.
Which you wouldn’t expect in the Ottawa suburbs, right? But it happens, and that’s why it’s important to lay the proper groundwork well ahead of time when you’re thinking about buying a house—no matter where you are. Sure, downtown Toronto buyers expect to move quickly, but as I learned, anyone can end up panic-dialling the agent they’re working with from a new-neighbourhood Starbucks asking if they can come do a walk through yes literally today.
Luckily, this speedy process was underpinned by months (haha years) of planning, research, and understanding our options. In fact, that’s probably the only reason why we were able to pounce on (and recognize) the perfect house at the perfect price. I’ve written about a lot of this process before today, but there’s one part I’ve mostly left out: Finding a great real estate salesperson to work with throughout the process.
I’ve teamed up with the Real Estate Council of Ontario to share the four steps anyone can take to make sure that the home buying (and selling) process is as easy for you as it was for us, courtesy of a representative who was the perfect fit for what we needed—especially as a first-time home buyer.
Interview multiple real estate agents
Choosing who you work with as your representative when you’re buying a home is a huge part of the process—probably second only to choosing which home you’re going to buy. This person is going to be with you almost every step of the way, and will have a big impact on how the process goes. To this day, I will out-of-the-blue bring up how deeply grateful I am that our representative was so thorough and made the process so stress-free for us, and I want that for you too.
To find the right person, it’s important to make time for interviews with multiple people to find the right fit. This is a totally normal and accepted part of the process, so make sure you find time to chat with different agents before signing on the dotted line.
When you do, consider asking them questions about…
- How much experience they have buying and selling houses
- Their approach to the process, and what makes it a good fit for your needs (do they work a lot with first-time buyers, or are they very familiar with the neighbourhoods you like?)
- The fees and commissions you’ll have to pay
- Exactly what services are included for those fees
- How often you’ll communicate with them
Last but not least, ask for references! Talking to past customers can give you a better sense of what the process is like from the other side of the table.
Confirm your real estate agent is in good standing
This is a very cool feature I didn’t know existed: there’s a search tool on the Real Estate Council of Ontario’s (RECO) website where you can look up a representative you’d like to work with, and check to see if they’re in good standing. You’ll be able to see if they’re registered with RECO, and see if they’re facing any disciplinary action. This is an easy way to triple-check that there won’t be any wrinkles later in the process.
Read and understand everything you sign
Ok, this seems like Total Dad Advice, but you really do need to read and understand everything you’re signing before you sign it. Once you’ve decided you want to work with a representative to buy your new house, it’s important to read the entire contract before you sign—because yes, even before you start signing house-buying papers, you’ll sign an agreement with your representative so that they can represent you.
There will be clauses about what you can expect from them, and about every part of the process—including what happens in the case that you don’t find a house you like, or if you want to terminate the relationship. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst, right?
Be an active participant in the process
Even once you have an awesome representative to work with, that doesn’t mean you should sit back and wait for the perfect house to come to you. First and foremost, you should be really clear about what you’re looking for, both in a house and from the overall process of working with your representative. That will drastically improve the odds of a successful house hunt, and one that you’re happy with both in outcome and process.
And the same effort applies to the entire process. Even though you’ve got an experienced pro by your side, it’s still up to you to understand what’s happening, and ask questions if you don’t. It’s still going to be your house at the end of the day, and your signature on the dotted line to buy the place, which is why it’s so key that you stay actively engaged in the entire process.
Plus, speaking personally, there’s a huge amount of peace of mind when you actually understand the process, and all the steps you need to take. I credit our real estate agent with that entirely, because if we had chosen to DIY the whole process, I can confidently say I would have been weeping into a contract within the first hour. House hunts are stressful, pals!
Finding a great representative can make all the difference
House hunts can move slowly, or quickly, or anywhere in between. While we didn’t work with a representative for the entire process (if you count the 2+ years we spent creeping open houses, that is) we couldn’t be happier with the experience of working with the right one for us when we eventually bought our home.
To make things easier on yourself, if you’re looking at buying a home and you’d like to work with a pro, make sure to do your due diligence ahead of time. That way, when you are ready to put in an offer or list your place, you’ll be confident that you’ve got the right person representing you.