When you’re looking for a new home — whether it’s your first place or you’ve done this before — there can be many stages to your home-buying journey. Searching homes online, discovering neighbourhoods and calculating costs with today’s great new apps can be great starting points, and can go a long way to helping you figure out what you want to buy, where you want to live, and how much home you could afford.
But when you’re ready to get really serious, it’s time to get in touch with a real estate professional. For all the information you can gather on your own, only they can offer the know-how, access, connections and real-life advice to help you find, purchase, critically evaluate and close your new home sweet home.
Ask for referrals from people you trust. Talk to your mortgage specialist, friends or colleagues who may have just moved.
So how do you choose the right one? With all of the ads featuring smiling agents, there are clearly many certified real estate professional ready and willing to accept your business. And while they may all be qualified, it’s important to choose someone well-suited to address your specific home-buying needs and preferences.
As you work out your numbers and zero in on neighbourhoods, here are key things to look for when choosing to work with a real estate professional.
1. Knowledge of the Neighbourhood
Beyond the fundamentals such as average home prices and recent sales, a good real estate professional will know the good schools, demographics, community features, parks, latest construction by-laws and more. With local knowledge and insight, your realtor should be able to let you know what the area is like today, and any plans for change — so you can feel comfortable you’re buying into a community you’ll love.
2. Listening Skills
A good agent will take the time to listen to your needs, wants, preferences, budget and motivation for buying. They’ll know your deal-breakers and the areas where you can bend a little. More than that, however, a smart realtor will apply what they have learned about you and take you to homes and communities that fit your list rather than wasting your time with places you’d never consider.
3. Attention to Detail
Because real estate involves considerable amounts of paperwork, your agent needs the ability to focus on the details. This should include researching a home’s selling history, looking for deficiencies hidden by clever staging, walking through the yard, and maybe even chatting with the neighbours. When you’re ready to buy, your agent needs to make sure the details around price, timing and conditions are correct in your contract, and all the boxes are initialed in your purchase agreement.
4. Big-Picture Thinking
Yes, your ideal agent will need to think both small and big picture, but problem solving with your end goal in mind can be key to finding your new home. For instance, if you can’t find a home within your budget or desired neighbourhood, they can come up with other ideas for you to consider — such as adjacent neighbourhoods or streets you hadn’t thought of, or a different style of home that might work for you.
5. A Strong Network
The best real estate professionals have a network of partners that include other agents, mortgage specialists, lawyers, home inspectors, etc. who share information and can be leaned on as resources for information, advice and services at different stages of the home buying process.
6. Negotiating Skills
While you probably want to work with a friendly real estate profession, you also want someone who is firm, fair and knowledgeable, with the skills and patience to successfully negotiate on the selling price, closing date, repairs and more.
Above all else, your agent must act in your best interest when showing you homes, making an offer and closing a deal. They should ensure that you understand the terms of the contract, to help avoid costly mistakes. When you have an agent who insists on an inspection, is level-headed during a bidding and stands firm on items such as repairs and closing dates is someone worth working with.
So How Do You Actually Find a Real Estate Professional?
- Ask for referrals from people you trust. Talk to your mortgage specialist, friends or colleagues who may have just moved.
- Search on REALTOR.ca. You can search by city, property specialty, and get a listing of registered agents who meet your criteria.
- Interview. Once you have short list of realtors, set up a meeting with each of them and ask questions about their expertise, experience, approach and network. You can get a great sense of an agent’s style and competence after a chat over coffee.
A home is likely the biggest purchase you will ever make in your life. Working with a trusted real estate professional is an important step toward making a smart home buying decision.
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.