How to choose the right real estate agent when buying a home in Toronto?

How to choose the right real estate agent when buying a home in Toronto?

Justo Team | June 14, 2019


Buying a home might be among one of the biggest and most important financial decisions you may make in your life. Buying a home, whether you are buying your first home or your third home is an exciting process but making the decision to buy a home and the actual process of buying a home are things that should not be taken lightly. Therefore, when you are choosing a real estate brokerage to work with as you embark on this home buying journey, this is something that you should do with care since a real estate agent can have a huge impact on your home buying experience. In other words, if you find a great real estate agent or broker they can be your advocate throughout this process, advising you while helping you to get the best value for your money with minimal headaches and frustration along the way.

Your real estate agent or broker is a person who you will be spending a lot of time with, so you need to find someone who you like, have good chemistry with, trust, and feel comfortable working with. They should be someone who understands your unique situation, needs and is knowledgeable about the area(s) and neighbourhood(s) where you are looking to buy. It might take some time to find the right agent or broker for you, so you will need to be patient and remember that this might take some time.

Related article: How to choose the right mortgage broker in Toronto?

You might be reading this and wondering, ok, I understand why I need to find an agent who I like to represent me as the buyer, but what does a real estate agent do exactly? How can they help me? Why is having a good real estate agent or broker important? How do I work with a real estate agent? How do I find a good real estate agent? What is a great real estate agent doing that an average real estate agent is not doing?

What exactly does an excellent real estate agent representing a buyer do?

First, a real estate agent/broker wears many hats since they do many different things depending on whether or not they are representing you as the buyer’s agent or the seller’s agent. They can counsel you on the neighbourhood(s) you are interested in–advising you on location(s), schools, and more. A good agent/broker is always updating their database of contacts, of clients (buyers and sellers) and available inventory of properties and keeping up with the goings on in various neighbourhoods. When the time comes to look at houses they are the ones acting as a liaison between you (the buyer) and the seller(s) communicating with the seller and the seller’s agent (as applicable), scheduling showings so you can see different homes, doing research on different homes that are in your desired neighbourhood(s) and maintaining a list of professionals who they work with throughout this home buying/selling process.

The research your real estate agent/broker do might involve doing research online for clients, checking the databases for which properties on the market, visiting prospective homes before showing them to clients and networking with other agents. Networking is extremely important for agents and having a well-connected agent is important since this can help them to stay abreast of all of the goings on in a given area–what properties have recently sold, what properties are under contract, what properties have recently come onto the market, and what properties might be coming onto the market soon. This research and networking are extremely important in that they help agents to be up-to-date with what is going in the area(s) where they are working, which can help ensure that they can find you a home within your price range, that is a good fit for you, your needs, budget, etc. When you are working with a pro, you should never feel like you are working with a glorified taxi or Uber driver i.e. if they are good, your agent should be doing more for you than just taking you to visit different properties and going through the motions of helping you find your dream home.

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An excellent agent will have a large network of other agents/brokers they trust, lenders, and other professionals that they work with during the home buying and home selling processes. If you need help finding a lender, your agent should be able to recommend a lender they trust who can take you through the pre-approval process for a home loan. This pre-approval process for a home loan is extremely important since your lender will be verifying your income, employment, and doing a credit check. Being pre-approved for a loan will help you to figure out how much money you will be able to spend when buying a home if you do not already have a target budget for your new home. An exceptional agent will insist that you get a solid pre-approval letter before you begin to seriously look at homes with them. You might be wondering why is this important?

How a real estate agent can guide you through the pre-approval process for a mortgage

Having a solid pre-approval letter for a loan can help to ensure that when the time comes for you to buy a home you will be ready and will have the financing lined up so you can make an offer on a home that you love. Having your financing lined up can help ensure that your offer will be accepted and that you can buy the home of your dreams. This is especially important if you are looking to buy real estate in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) given the intense competition and bidding wars that have recently become commonplace in Toronto. The last thing you would want to happen is that you have found the home of your dreams, the seller accepts your offer but your offer falls through or you have to withdraw your offer because you were unable to come up with the necessary funds to purchase their home. An excellent agent can also help you understand the conditions for pre-approval.

Related article: GTA home buyers and sellers are overpaying by thousands

If you have found a great agent who is really looking out for you and your best interests, that is on top of their game, they will be helping you to understand and monitor your mortgage commitment as a buyer. They can help you, the buyer understands that you need to maintain your current credit status, so you can avoid mortgage mistakes. This is important since mortgage mistakes can be common for first-time home buyers. Your agent can help you avoid any mortgage mistakes and understand your mortgage commitment saving you time, headaches, frustration, stress, potential heartbreak, and more.

Having your agent there to monitor your mortgage commitment and guide you through this process is extremely important because pre-approvals for home loans can be precarious. Pre-approvals for loans are dependent on the information you are providing to the lender at the time that you are requesting pre-approval for a home loan. It is important to remember that any changes for your financial situation have the potential to make it impossible for you to get a home loan or have the potential to reduce the amount of money you will be eligible to receive as part of a home loan.

You and your real estate agent/broker should be monitoring the status of your loan. They can advise you on how to protect or maintain your pre-approval status for your eventual mortgage. They can help you understand why you should avoid making any large purchases (such as buying a car) or taking out any loans for things before you close on your home. In this situation, your agent is helping you understand and navigate all of the financial and legal implications that are related to being pre-approved and receiving a mortgage, explaining to you some of the ins and outs of this process.

Having an excellent buyer’s agent can provide such perks as their ability to negotiate the best possible purchase price for your home. Those who excel at negotiating are aware of the value of whatever they are attempting to buy or sell which is why having an excellent real estate agent or broker representing you, the buyer, can be an asset to you, because their knowledge, experience, and expertise means that they will have the in-depth knowledge and understanding of which factors influence a home’s value, which can save you time and money. Their knowledge and negotiating skills can influence how much you might be able to expect to pay for a home.

Excellent buyer’s agents will analyze and consider the value of a home that you are looking to buy. Then they will be able to advise on how much you should offer the seller(s) and how to best structure your initial offer. When the seller(s) and/or the seller’s agent responds they will be able to advise you accordingly on how to best proceed.

An excellent real estate agent/broker will have excellent communication and negotiating skills. They will know how to most effectively negotiate with the seller and/or the seller’s agent to ensure that you are getting the best possible price for your home. It is important to remember that real estate agents and brokers are humans after all, while their negotiating prowess might be great, you (the buyer and the agent representing you as the buyer) are beholden to the market. However, this does not mean that a skilled negotiator cannot get you a more favourable deal.

A great agent should be an excellent communicator, patient, trustworthy, and compassionate, this person should be someone who you can feel like you can easily communicate and work with. And they should be able to effectively communicate your needs to others and advocate on your behalf. This is extremely important since you will be spending a lot of time with them during this process and will need to disclose your financial and personal situation with them, as well as other possibly sensitive information to them.

Real estate agents fulfill another important role in the home buying and selling process, they draft offers and counter-offers for buyers. These documents and negotiations are an incredibly important part of the transaction given that if the seller accepts a solid counteroffer, this could save you thousands of dollars. However, getting to the final sale price might require a lot of back and forth between the buyer and the buyer’s agent who is working with the seller and if applicable the seller’s agent, with a lot of offers and counteroffers. This negotiation process has the potential to be extremely time-consuming because drafting offers and counter-offers takes a long time and going back and forth with the buyer, seller, and listing agent as applicable can take even longer. Managing all of the logistics and details for this process has the potential to make your head spin.

How an excellent agent can help you as you are in the process of purchasing and closing on your dream home

Assisting you with the home inspection and negotiating based on what you learned from the home inspection

A great agent can also help you with finding a home inspector and they can even attend your home inspection with you before closing. This is important since even the most experienced home inspectors can miss things, and they may even fail to clearly or precisely convey the information they found to you, the buyer. The real estate agent or broker representing you as the buyer’s agent should be there so they can hear exactly what the home inspector has found and passed on this information to you.

Related article: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid for a First Time Home Buyer in Toronto

Once the home inspector has finished their inspection and you receive their report, an exceptional agent will be advising you on how to best proceed, i.e. what things need to be brought to the seller’s attention. This is important since if your agent is not attending your home inspection, it could be difficult for you to understand what are the issues the home inspector found in your home and how to negotiate with the seller regarding these issues. Make sure that you find out at the beginning whether or not your agent will be there at the home inspection. If they explain that it is not typical for them to go to a home inspection, you should insist that they are there at the home inspection. Ideally, you probably should be present at the home inspection too with your agent so you learn more about your home and any issues it may have. It is essential that your agent is at the home inspection with you since when it comes time to negotiate with the seller and the seller’s agent about fixing any issues related to the home inspection, your agent will know what the issues are and be able to negotiate effectively on your behalf.

The information you receive from a home inspection can be incredibly useful in that it provides you with leverage for negotiations with the seller and the seller’s agent. Based on the home inspection results you can request that the seller(s) make repairs based on what you learned from the home inspection. In some cases, you may be able to get the price reduced or other concessions in the purchase agreement based on problems with your home that were encountered during the home inspection. Your real estate agent will be the best person to negotiate these things since they will understand how each issue in your home impacts the value of your home.

Your agent will be acting and negotiating on your behalf, to ensure that the seller deals with any serious problems affecting the house. They might be able to negotiate a price reduction based on issues you might have found with the house, repairs for issues or seller’s concessions at closing. One role a buyer’s agent plays is letting you know when you might be unreasonable with your home inspection and repair requests. It is important to keep in mind that with home inspections there is always a give and take. The purpose of a home inspection is not to ensure that you are receiving the perfect home because almost every home out there will have some issue(s) small and/or large. An experienced buyer’s agent will advise you on what you should focus on and what you need to let go of during these negotiations related to home inspections.

Your agent/broker can also look into whether or not there are any permitting issues with the home. This is important because sometimes homeowners will make changes to their homes without going through the process to get the appropriate channels and secure the proper permits and this can present big headaches to you as the buyer. You will want to know about any potential issues before you choose to commit to buying a given home.

Related article: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide for Buying a House in Toronto

Communicating with the buyer and seller’s agent and the attorney assisting you with this transaction throughout the purchase/sale process and your attorney

In order for your house hunting and purchase process to go as smoothly and be as painless as possible, everyone involved in this process and transaction needs to be kept abreast about what is happening. Your agent in this situation is responsible for keeping everyone involved in this process informed including, your lawyer and the seller’s agent. A great agent understands the importance of excellent communication and keeping everyone on the same page since they know how to determine what information is important, who needs to be informed about certain happenings, who needs what from them/you, and how to maintain the momentum during this process. An excellent agent is an excellent communicator because communication is so key for everyone involved in the sale/purchase process and having an agent who is well-organized and on top of things will really make a huge difference in your home buying process and make the process much more enjoyable for all involved parties.

Putting out metaphorical fires and hand-holding as needed

It is important to remember that for however many real estate transactions go off without a hitch, there are plenty of times when sellers and/or buyers involved in real estate transactions might become dramatic and/or difficult. A great agent will do their best to ensure that buyers are not aware if there is a lot of drama going on unless they have a good reason to inform the buyer about what’s happening. Agents will be there behind the scenes fixing things, cleaning up messes, and solving problems that buyers and sellers may never be aware of.

A great real estate agent is there with you throughout the process working to ensure that this process is less stressful and going smoothly, acting as your advocate, negotiator and maybe your therapist, depending on who you are. Buying a home can be an emotional and incredibly stressful process for some, so agents are problem solvers maintaining a positive approach and devising positive solutions to problems as they arise. They might be there as your emotional support helping you to stay calm when the pressure is on.

Tying up loose ends during the closing process

Your agent will also be there ensuring that the sale goes through, that you make it to closing so you can finally own your new home for real. Despite what you might think, there are a lot of details that are a part of the closing process and a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up before you can officially close on your home. If your agent does not take care of everything, this means that your deal and closing could fall through with you walking away empty handed. Your agent’s job will be to finalize all of the details related to closing on your home so you can close on your home and this process goes off without a hitch. Your real estate agent and your attorney will be with you at the closing to support you through this process, answer any questions you may have, and provide any needed advice.

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Steps for choosing the right real estate agent for you

1. Decide that you are ready to buy a home, what type of home you want, where you want to buy, how much you are willing to spend, etc.

If you have not already done so, now is the time when you would officially decide to take a leap, do the thing, and buy a home. If you have not already done so, if you will need a mortgage, you should consider getting pre-approved for a mortgage. The amount of money that the lender is willing to pre-approve you for when getting a home loan is important since it will have an impact on determining how much money you will be able to spend on a house.

If you have not already decided on what type of home you want to buy i.e. detached single family home, duplex, triplex, condo, townhouse, lakehouse, etc. this would be the time to do this. And you will need to figure out where you are interested in purchasing a home, what area(s) and neighbourhood(s) will you be looking for? How many bedrooms and bathrooms are you looking for? If you are looking at houses, what style of house are you interested in? What are your must-have when looking for a home i.e. do you want a large gourmet kitchen, do you want a fixer-upper, outdoor space for your pets and/or kids, etc.? What is your budget? Is your budget flexible, will you be able to go above this number if you find the perfect house but it’s outside of your budget?

Related article: Types of Houses in Canada and How to Get the Best Price for Them

These questions and your answers for them are incredibly important since they can help you to determine which agents and brokerages you might be able to expect to work with. This is especially true in Toronto, a city with hundreds of neighbourhoods and many suburbs in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). There are some agents and brokers who specialize in working certain neighbourhoods, so you will want someone who is knowledgeable about and has plenty of experience working in your desired area(s). Moreover, for example, if you are only looking at high-end properties, you might be able to work with a brokerage, brokers or agents who specialize in dealing with such properties and exclusively work with such buyers and sellers. However, all of the things that an excellent real estate agent does, a good agent should be doing whether you are buying an inexpensive property or an absurdly expensive lakefront mansion in Toronto.

2. Ask your family, friends, and colleagues for referrals for real estate agents

At this point, you have made the decision that you are committed to buying a house, so now is when you would be asking people in your network for referrals and the names of agents they might have worked with and liked. If you do not have anyone in your network who can provide you with referrals i.e. if you are new to the area, you could always consider asking people in the area(s) and/or neighbourhood(s) where you are interested in purchasing property to recommend an agent that is experienced and knowledgeable.

If you are unsure how to go about finding people to ask for referrals for agents, you can try to read magazines or local alternative weekly papers dealing with the area if they have any issues with lists dealing with the “Best of [insert area/city]”. Usually, these lists might include agents, brokerages, and agencies, this could be a good starting point as you go to look for someone. Or you can look for Neighbourhood Listserv lists and see if anyone can recommend anyone, try neighbourhood groups on Facebook if there any groups for people living in the area you are interested in purchasing property–you could post in one of these groups and ask for recommendations, or there might be local blogs which might have articles on this matter. These are all some places that you could start looking. Luckily, we are living in the information age so even if you are new to Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), have no fear you will find a great agent to work with and put you on the path to success!

2. Do some internet research about real estate agents, agencies and brokerages to see if you can find a potential agent

Assuming you have not already found an agent that you liked from referrals, now would be the time when you should be doing internet research. When looking at agents online you should be trying to figure out what neighbourhoods they have experience working in, looking into their reputation, seeing if they have any reviews from past clients-buyers and/or sellers. If you are looking at a specific neighbourhood in Toronto, this would be the time when you should be looking for hyperlocal agents, agencies, brokers, and brokerages who can help you with finding a home in your desired neighbourhood. You should be looking for reviews and other information, positive or negative about a given brokerage/agency and/or broker/agent before you commit to working with them.

3. Interview potential agents and be clear with them about your expectations about working with an agent

At this point, you probably have found some great potential agents for you, which is great! Now you will need to speak with potential agents you will need to conduct informational interviews before you commit to working with a specific agent. These initial informational interviews and conversations will set the stage for the rest of your working relationship. When interviewing agents and before deciding on whether someone might be a good fit for you should consider how your answers to the following questions?

  • Do they have experience working in the neighbourhood(s) you are interested in moving to?
  • Do you like them, trust them, and feel that you could work well together with them?
  • Do you have chemistry and good rapport with them?
  • Do they understand your wants and needs?
  • Are they a person that you could see yourself working with for the foreseeable future until you find and close on your home?

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When working with agents you will want to be clear with them about what your expectations about working with agent are, how often you want to be in contact with them, what they will be doing for you, how you will be in contact with them, the means of communication you will use the text messages or WhatsApp messages, phone calls, emails, etc. You will want to know if you will be represented exclusively by this agent or their team or you will not be exclusive with a single agent. Do you expect to have agents picking you up at your current residence to show you homes and drive you home when you are done? If you want this, tell your agent(s) this. Many agents are willing to do this but if you want this, you need to communicate this to the agent(s) you might be working with, they do not mind readers if you want something you will need to tell them. You will want to have a realistic goal for your time frame to find a home and communicate this to them as well.

4. Optional: Speak with potential agent’s past clients

If you really want to be sure that you are picking the right person to help you can ask potential agents to give you the names and contact information for three references, three people who have worked with a given agent in the past and can vouch for them. Speaking with past clients and hearing about their experiences working with a given person or team can help you to figure out if they will be the right choice for you. This will also help you gain greater insight into an agent or team’s style, how they tend to work and communicate with everyone involved in the process.

5. Choose your agent

Now comes the fun part, you will be choosing the agent or team of agents that you will be working with. When you decide to do this be prepared for the paperwork that will follow as you choose the agent(s) who will be representing you since you will need to sign an agreement to have an agent representing you.

6. Sign a buyer-broker agreement with the agent

At this point, you will be signing a buyer-broker agreement where you will be legally committing to having a certain agent representing you as the buyer in this transaction. This agreement may last anywhere from 30 days up to a year or longer depending on the type of agreement you are signing. When signing this agreement, make sure to get everything in writing and written into the buyer-broker agreement. This agreement should include the term of the agreement, i.e. how long you will be working with this agent or broker or their team of agents or brokers, real estate agency or brokerage, 30 days, 90 days, a year, etc. the commission payable if there is any, and the location(s) where you want your agent(s) or broker(s) to focus their search. Furthermore, if you have any special requirements or specific features that you want the property you are buying to have, this should be included in the broker-buyer agreement.

7. Sign an agency agreement to have an agent represent you as the buyer.

Agents are supposed to give buyers an agency disclosure, this is your proof of receipt not an agreement with a specific agency. You should read through this disclosure and make sure you understand what you are signing. The ideal and most typical type of agency would be a single agency. This type of agreement means that you will be represented by your own agent, who has a fiduciary responsibility to you and duty-bound to look out for your best interests. If you have any questions about the agreement(s) you are signing, ask questions since you should not be signing anything that you do not understand.

8. Officially begin working with your agent and start looking at homes with them

Here comes the really fun part, it is time to start looking at homes to buy with agents! Although, it is important to remember that it might take you a while to find your dream home, the first home you might see with your agent might not end up being the home you will end up buying. Although it could be, you never know and this is a process, the journey in this case, is the destination, do your best to enjoy this process.

Questions you should be asking when choosing/interviewing a real estate agent

No matter if this is your first real estate transaction because you are becoming a first-time homeowner or this is your fifth real estate transaction there are a series of questions you should be asking any potential real estate or broker you intend on working with.

How long have they been in real estate for?

This is an important question since you want to work with someone who has been an agent for a while, knows the area, is knowledgeable and experienced. However, if you find someone who you like better than an older, veteran agent, do not feel that you have to choose a person whose style is not a great fit for you even if they have more experience than someone with less experience who you like and get along with better.

How many clients do they usually handle?

This is an extremely important question since you will want to know if an agent will have time for you or if they are already overloaded with a bunch of other clients. You do not want to feel like you are not a priority if someone you are interested in working with a bunch of other people. If the agent you are working with has a high client volume, you should find out whether or not they have plans to remedy this situation if they need additional support. Do they have any additional team members supporting them? Do they have an assistant with a real estate license or other team members who can help you out and advise you if you need their support?

What type of communication can you expect from them?

This question is important so you can figure out if you will be hearing from them via text message or WhatsApp message depending on where you are, email, IM, phone calls, etc.

How often can you expect to hear from them?

Another super important question to ask is how often you can expect to hear from an agent, daily, every couple of days, weekly, etc. Do you want to receive daily updates or updates as they come?

Is the agent you are working with part of a team? If they are a part of a team, will you be exclusively working with them or will you be passed around to other members of their team throughout the process? What is their setup if they are a part of a team?

Working with a team of agents can provide you with some great benefits. However, your relationship and how you will be working with other team members should be clear from the beginning. When you are working with a team you will find people who will have a wide level of experience, knowledge, and expertise. You might find that some individuals might have more experience in dealing with certain situations than others. You should be told at the beginning when working of a team of agents whether or not the plan will be for you to with one agent throughout the duration of your transaction or you will be meeting with and working with different people at different times. Ideally, you should not expect to only work with one agent and then been passed around to different people at every stage of the process.

What types of homes do they specialize in working with, i.e. high-end homes (homes above a certain price point), condos, townhouses, pre-construction homes, new construction homes, etc.?

It is important that you figure out what type of real estate they have the most experience in working with whether they sell or help buyers buy condos vs. houses vs. townhouses, etc. This is important especially if you are looking for a certain type of home i.e. a condo vs. house, a home that is being built or a home that has already been built.

What is your ratio of buyers to sellers? Do they tend to act more as a listing agent (representing the seller(s) or a buyer’s agent representing the buyer(s)?

When you begin speaking with agents, you will learn that many agents specifically work with buyers or sellers. For many teams, there are agents who are designated buyers’ agents and listing agents (agents who represent the seller(s) in a real estate transaction). While it is great to have an abundance of experience and knowledge of one thing, this means that a person may have a limited perspective and might not be as good as someone who has experience working selling homes or buying homes. How well will buy a buyer’s agent be able to help you if they have little to no experience selling homes and working with sellers who are selling homes? The same holds true if you are selling your home and speaking with an agent who only has ever worked with sellers, how will they be able to understand the buyer’s and the buyer’s agent’s perspectives. This is important since you might be looking to buy a new house, you might be selling your current home. Finding an agent with experience working with buyers and sellers will help make this process go even more smoothly.

Track record and inventory

It is important that you find an agent with experience and knowledge of the area(s) where you want to buy, with a good track record of supporting buyers through these transactions and excellent knowledge of the area(s) where you want to buy.

Related article: Toronto online platform touts its buyer/seller experience

Is this their full-time job or is this side hustle?

You will want to find someone who is a full-time real estate agent instead of someone who has a totally unrelated day/9 to 5 jobs and does real estate as their side hustle since chances they will not be equipped or able to help you as much as a person who specializes in working in real estate.

What happens if you want to work with someone else or do not like your original choice of agent(s)?

Ideally, you should have a time when you need to switch agent(s) but sometimes things change and/or happen and you need to switch agents. However, if you are unhappy with your agent’s services you should speak with them directly. In other words, if they are showing you homes that do not fit your criteria for budget, home type, etc. Do you need someone who can better advise on real estate in the area(s) where you are interested in buying? When dealing with such problems you need to be specific since some of these problems can be resolved and you always devise a new plan of action. However, if the situation does not improve you can always speak with the manager of the real estate agency or brokerage to see if you all can work together to devise a solution.

It is important to remember when you are signing an agreement where you are agreeing to have an agent or a team of agents representing you, you are signing a legally binding contract which probably will lock you into working with an agency, agent, or brokerage for a certain amount of time that is specified in the contract. But, if you are not satisfied with your original agent or broker, you can always ask the brokerage or agency to assign you to another broker or agent so you can finish out your contract with them.

However, worst case scenario if you choose to work with another agency or brokerage, you need to be aware that your buyer representation agreement usually contains a “holdover clause” which requires you to pay a commission to the brokerage you were previously working with for a certain amount of time after you have ended or terminated your agreement with them. Be careful to avoid approaching another brokerage or real estate agent/agency to represent you as the buyer while you are still under contract with your initial agent or brokerage, so you can avoid any legal and/or financial consequences for choosing to work with another brokerage/real estate agency, broker or agent.

Will they be able to support you and your unique situation?

Finally, one of the arguably most important questions you can ask is if an agent and their team are equipped to support you and your unique situation. Do they understand you and your unique situation?

Things to remember and consider when working with real estate agents

Whenever you are working with real estate agents there are some things you need to remember and consider throughout this process that will help you throughout this process.

First, agents work on commission, this means that they are motivated to help you quickly find your ideal home since they are not earning a salary. While you may only see the work that an agent does in your presence, like teachers and other professionals, they spend a lot of time when you are not with them doing work to prepare for being with you. For every hour that you spend in an agent’s presence, an agent will be spending on average nine (9) hours working on your behalf. Take a moment and read this sentence again, agents are really doing the work to help you out and be your advocate, supporting you through this process, so if they are great, thank them and be sure to tell others about your positive experiences working with them.

You might be wondering why agents spend so much time doing work for clients? This is because agents do not get paid until they close the deal/make a sale. Unless other professionals who bill the hour, agents/brokers are not making a cent until or unless a sale goes through. They have a risky job, one month they could be netting huge commissions and the next month they could be making nothing, such is the real estate business. Due to the nature of their work, they do not have a typical schedule and might be working weekends, nights, holidays, etc. and even on vacation to make sure that the sale goes through and support their clients. Be respectful of their expertise and time, since they are working for you.

If you are looking to buy in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) you should be looking for hyper-local agents, especially agents, brokers, agencies and brokerages who specialize in the area(s) you are interested in since Toronto is so large and varied, with 140 neighbourhoods in the City of Toronto alone. One agent who is extremely knowledgeable about downtown might not be as equipped to help you purchase a home in Upper Beaches as an agent who specializes in this neighbourhood.

Things you should do when working with a real estate agent

It is important to remember that every relationship whether you are friends, romantically involved, and/or working together is a two-way street. In other words, while your agent is doing a lot for you there are certain things you can do to help keep your agent or broker happy and ensure that this a smooth process. Some of these things may seem like no brainers and one of them is a common courtesy, but they are worth mentioning since it’s possible that the agent representing you as you buy a new home, might also be your listing agent if you are selling your home.

Keep your appointments, be on time and be respectful

All productive, working relationships are built with a foundation of trust and mutual respect. When working with an agent or broker it is important to remember that you are probably not their only client, so do not expect them to drop everything so they can run out to show you a potential home. Second, keep your appointments, do not make an appointment with an agent or broker and then now show up leaving a broker or agent hanging. If you are running late or need to cancel an appointment, call or text to let your agent or broker know, so they know when they can expect you to arrive. Time is money and keeping your appointments and being on time is one way you can show your agent respect. While this is a common courtesy, you might read the next one and wonder why you should you need to speak with your agent(s) before you visit an open house without them.

Talk to a real estate agent about whether or not if it is ok for you to visit open houses without them

When you are working with an agent you should ask them about whether or not you should go to open houses without them, unescorted. You may be wondering why this might be the case? In some places, it is not considered proper to visit an open house without the agent representing you as the buyer’s agent. If the agent(s) representing you say that it is ok for you to visit an open house without them, make sure to bring your agent’s business cards and hand it to the agent(s) handling the open house, this person is usually the listing agent for the open house. Frequently this person is a buyer’s agent who is also looking for people looking to buy that do not have an agent representing them. Giving them your agent’s or broker’s business card effectively protect you since you are demonstrating to them that you are already represented by a real estate agent.

Also, when you are at an open house, do not ask whoever is hosting the open house questions about the seller and/or the seller’s motivation(s) for selling. These are questions that you should let your agent ask for you since your agent will probably utilize a different approach that is more effective to find out the answers to these questions.

Be pre-approved for a loan/mortgage for a house

If you have not already been pre-approved for a mortgage, you should have your agent help you out with this process. Here is something to consider from an agent/broker’s perspective if you need a home loan and have not already been pre-approved for a loan to buy a home what incentive are you giving your agent or broker to show you homes? It might take hours just to show you one house, time they could be better spending on showing homes to clients who have been pre-approved and are itching to buy. Agents and brokers do not want to waste their time showing you homes that you will not be able to buy.

Related article: How to get a second mortgage in Toronto (Ontario)?

Be ready to buy

Make sure you are ready to buy when you find a real estate to represent you as a buyer, if you are not ready to buy, look at homes online or visit open houses but be honest with the agent at the open house that you are only looking not ready to buy yet. Feel free to visit open houses by yourself and look online but be clear when visiting open houses that you are only looking but you are not ready to buy. Do what you need to do so when you are seriously looking at houses that you can commit to doing this, e.g. getting child care or moving some things around in your schedule so you can make time to look at houses. And if you are ready to buy bring your chequebook in case you need to make a deposit to show that you are serious about buying a certain property.

Things you should avoid doing when working with a real estate agent representing you, the buyer

When working with real estate agents and brokers there are certain things you should avoid doing that may cause issues that could have an impact on your real estate transaction or larger issues that mean you that would cause you to have to find another agent. Here are some things that you should never do when working with agents or brokers representing you as the buyer.

Do not sign any documents that you do not understand

First and foremost, you should not sign any forms that you do not understand. There is no shame in needing to ask your agent(s) or broker(s) to explain the significance of a document that you are signing, it is your agent’s job to explain what each form means, they might not think to explain to you the significance of a given document but make sure to get an explanation and ask as many questions as you need until you feel confident that you understand what you are signing. Also, it is important to remember that unless your agent or broker has a law degree, they are not lawyers and cannot interpret the law or provide legal advice. If you need legal advice consult an attorney.

Do not call the listing agent for a property if you are working with an agent who is representing you as the buyer

Furthermore, listing agents (agents selling a certain property work for the seller and they are the seller’s agent) they are not your agent, the buyer’s agent. If you hire a listing agent (the seller’s agent) to represent you as the buyer’s agent, this agent would not be working in a dual agency capacity and some conflicts of interest may arise because of this. It is important to understand that if a listing agent is showing you a property, the listing agent will probably expect to represent you. This is why when you visit open houses without your agent, you bring their business card and hand it to the listing agent so they know that you are already represented. Moreover, ethics are supposed to prevent a listing agent from showing or giving anyone preferential treatment. If you were to ask the listing agent to do you a favour and see if they could get you a discount on the price, you would be asking them to compromise their integrity and most brokers and agents would not do that. Finally, listing/seller’s agents do not want the buyer’s agent’s job. You need to let the agent representing you as the buyer’s agent do their job, speak with the listing agent, negotiate on your behalf, etc.

Do not ever interview two different agents from the same company

You might be reading this and wondering why you should interview agents from the same brokerage or company. First, agents most likely know each other and might talk about to compare notes, it’s safe to say that you probably do not want people to be discussing your financial and personal situation at the water cooler. Second, you do not know whether or not two agents are friends or like each other, if they are friends or colleagues who have a cordial relationship this could make things awkward for everyone involved at best or create issues at worst. But what if they do not like each other and have issues with each other, two agents or brokers who already have a conflict with each other, this could create more resentment and tension that could affect your experience and the sale.

Furthermore, one of the agents may turn down the opportunity to interview or work with you to avoid creating tension in their firm or if they are friends with the other agent you are interviewing they might say no so they can avoid competing with their friend. Or one or both of the agents in question might not want the other to gain access to their business secrets or figure out how they do business.

Finally, the benefits companies provide for each agent might be pretty similar so it might not be worth it for them to create conflicts in the office. One agent might not care a lot if another agent from another firm gets your business since this competition is fierce. However, they will probably be upset if they were passed up after interviewing with you if another agent in their office ends up working with you and gets your business instead. So if you want to interview various agents or brokers, interview people from a variety of different agencies and brokerages.


It is essential to remember that it may take some time, effort, energy to find the right person, but if you are patient and do the work, chances are you can find someone who you will be able to work well with. In other words, do not be surprised if you do not find someone you like right off the bat, it may take some time for you to find someone. Although you might end up lucky and find someone whose personality, experience, knowledge, style, etc. is an ideal fit for you.

Buying a home is a process, it’s not a quick sprint, buying a home might be closer to running a marathon or doing a triathlon and finding the right real estate agent or broker is only the beginning. However, finding the right person to represent you as the buyer is an important step of this process as it can help ensure that you are on the right path and they can work with you and everyone else involved in this process, to help make this process go much more smoothly. If we are using a sports metaphor, finding the right agent, means that you will have someone who can go to bat for you when it comes time to negotiate, who is in your corner, who can coach and support you throughout this process, answering any questions you might have about home buying, homeownership and more, setting you up for success.

Photo by Maurice Williams on Unsplash

By Justo Team

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