It shouldn't surprise you to know that I have some thoughts about hiring someone to help you out with real estate. Because I've been helping people with real estate for a long time and I've seen the problems that come with poor vetting.
What do first-time buyers need to know about their Realtor® before committing?
Your realtor® is your partner-in-crime when it comes to getting a great deal on real estate. Although you have access to more information in the housing market than ever, without the proper training to evaluate, filter and process that information, you are facing overload that will not help you seal a better deal. This is where a great realtor® comes into play. Here are some of the most important questions to ask when vetting your real estate partner, especially if you are a first time home buyer.
Does your realtor® require exclusivity?
There is really no such thing as "exclusivity" in a partnership with a realtor®; however, you will certainly get better service from a dedicated realtor® who knows that (s)he is your go to source for properties and information. In Ontario, you can sign a Buyer Representation Agreement or a Customer Service Agreement. Neither are mandatory, but they can be advantageous. This article from OREA explains the differences and advantages.
Before you commit in this way, however, take a good look at the workload of your realtor® and the types of customers that (s)he services. You want someone who is committed to finding you the best deal as a first time home buyer and not looking to skip corners.
Does your realtor® want you to give up your right to contingency clauses?
Speaking of not skipping corners, you should never do business with a realtor® who wants you to give up your right to review or fight conditions in order to "speed up the process." You will likely hear this from some realtor® or another in an attempt to make a quick sale of you. You must know that conditions are the most important part of your buying process, and no matter how much they gob up the works, they must be worked through.
Does your realtor® have any special certifications or designations?
This is important if you have special status as a first time home buyer. If you are a military veteran, a disabled person or a senior first time home buyer, there are certain certifications that realtors® can obtain to showcase mastery of your market niche. Ask about them.
Does your agent represent you exclusively, or the buyer as well?
Realtors® earn more money when they represent the seller and buyer on a deal. Obviously, there is an incentive to make these deals work for the realtors®. When realtors® represent the buyer and seller, things can go perfectly and work for all parties. It can also be a mess. I've 'double-ended' my fair share of deals over the years and, without exception, these all emerged organically. Usually, I am working with a buyer, showing them everything on the market. With the seller, I've priced them where they are likely to sell on the market. Sometimes, I think one of my buyers will really like one of my listings. I show it to them, and they determine the parameters of an offer. Everyone is aware that I represent both sides. I bring the offer to the seller and they decide if its acceptable. If another offer from a different buyer represented by another realtor® comes at the same time, I present these to the seller too with full disclosure. If my seller doesn't choose the offer from my buyer, great. This happened to me last week, actually. If they do, great. Sure, I earn more money, but I've done so in a way that is honest and is mutually advantageous to both my clients.
Do you have relationships with local contractors, home repair services and financiers?
Depending on your needs, you may want to seek out a realtor® with some clout where you lack it. For instance, if you are having trouble getting pre-approved, the right realtor® may be able to help you with this by knowing the mortgage broker landscape. If you are looking at purchasing a fixer-upper, your realtor® may have access to lower prices on home builder services that (s)he gets because of volume referrals.
Does your realtor do real estate full time?
This may seem like a no brainer, but there are plenty of licensed real estate agents who are in the market as a hobby. Skip over these people; they will not have the inside information or the connections that you need to find deals. They cannot turn around deals quickly enough for you. If you are looking for a full time realtor® with niche experience and plenty of patience to help you through your first home buying process, I am your woman.
I am looking forward to meeting you.