Friday, April 08, 2011

Tips on Finding a Realtor

One of my favourite columnists, Ellen Roseman of the Toronto Star, recently wrote a column on finding a realtor and the pitfalls some of her readers have gone through.  She takes particular issue with the signing of the "buyer representation agreement" and it's many pitfalls.   Ellen always brings forth the issues and highlights the areas of concern for consumers to watch out for when dealing with big companies and/or simple transactions.

As I've noted before I had good experiences with my realtor and my experience in purchasing a house.  This is what reputable realtors will want you to have, a good time during the ride of the house hunting experience. 
But, hiring a Realtor can be a little daunting. 

Back in early 2010 my wife and I decided we would at least look at the housing market to see what the prices were like.  We visited http://www.mls.ca/ (the Realtor website) to determine what prices were like.  We then took a look at what we thought we could afford (i.e. a budget).   As well, we took a look at what we were looking for in terms of "wants", "needs", "nice to haves but not necessary" and "forget it...NEXT HOUSE!" aspects for houses.  We also read several articles online, library books and in the newspapers that we could find.  Then we started looking for a real estate agent.

As first time homebuyers and knowing nothing about house hunting than houses with real estate signs in front of them we definately needed someone who could answer simple questions clearly as well as school us on what to look for in a house.  We also had to be comfortable and trust our agent. It was also important in taking our time to choose the right agent.

I thought I had just the right person in mind.  I had known that Roy Eveleigh had been a long time realtor and had spoken to a couple of people I knew about his services and recommended him. I spoke to Roy after church one day and he pointed me towards getting preapproved for a mortgage first.  He gave me a couple of business cards and said once that step is done please feel free to contact me so we can move forward.

We contacted our current bank, one of Roy's recommendations and another bank to see what we could get in terms of rates. We then got preapproved at a great rate for us and took the paperwork with us to our next meeting with Roy.

We met Roy for an evening where he outlined how the Realtor and buyer relationship would work.  He gave us a bunch of paperwork to read over, sign and return to him in the future.  We appreciated that Roy let us take home the agreement to ponder and didn't pressure us into signing.  In hindsight this was one the best suggestion Roy made as he wanted us to feel comfortable with him without any pressure.  We took it home and read it over.  The next visit we had a couple of questions on the Realtor agreement which Roy easily answered in straight forward language.  We took the agreement back home to review again. 
On the same visit, we also went over what the mortgage provider gave us to give Roy an idea on what we could afford.  Roy was a complete professional. Together with Roy we went and looked at a few houses.  Roy showed us a few houses by appointment and we gained some experience in what Roy would show us in.  Roy never tried to "sell us" on a house.  He always showed us both the good and bad of a house. If I had a question he always answered truthfully.  This helped us bolster our decision to sign the Realtor agreement. 

So my suggestions on finding a Realtor and before signing a Realtor agreement is (chronologically):

1. Get preapproved for a mortgage.  This allows you to know what your price range for houses to purchase.

2. Have a referral from friends and family on who they feel is a good real estate agent. 

3. Have a meeting with the agent and go over the details on what you looking for to give them an understanding.

4. At the same meeting go over the Realtor agreement with the agent but do not sign it at this point.  Take the agreement home and reread it again.  If you have questions be sure to ask your Realtor on the next meeting. 

5. Also before signing, see a few houses (two or three houses) by appointment with your prospective Realtor.  Remember you are going to be seeing probably close to forty houses or more with this Realtor so you must feel comfortable with them.  Look to see if the Realtor is only playing up the good parts about the house or are they willing to point out both good and bad issues with the house.  Also, when you ask a question do they sound truthful or are they giving you a sales pitch to explain a possible defect away?  Bottom line, a good Realtor should make you feel comfortable with the buying process and want you to feel comfortable in your new home instead of trying to make a quick sale. 

6. Ask any questions you may have about the agreement and then sign if you wish.  If you do not wish to sign at this point, there would be no obligation to you to maintain the relationship with the agent. But if you do sign, you at least have done your research and should be comfortable with the agent.

After signing the agreement Roy gave us a great time house hunting.  We learned about what foreclosure houses looked like and the pitfalls behind them, how as first time homebuyers we probably want to stay away from houses that are currently rented to tenants and that you need a deposit of ten thousand or so before putting down an offer.  We had a good time visiting prospective houses either giving them a thumbs up or thumbs down and giving reasons why. Roy quickly learned what we were looking for and had suggestions of where further to look. 

Roy was always willing to answer stupid first time home buyer questions and still enjoys hearing about the trials and tribulations of owning a house. 

Finding a good Realtor is very important as they will assist you in making one of the biggest purchases of your life, a home to live in.  Thus, I was glad to have Roy assist me in this as he was very knowlegable, patient and professional with my wife and I.

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