With more than 34,000 active agents working in the Greater Toronto Area, you should be able to find exactly the right person you need to help you buy a home. Here’s how.
I’m not the right realtor for everyone. No one is. In a sea of more than 34,000 active agents working in the Greater Toronto Area, you should be able to find exactly the right person you need to help you buy a house or condo, or to help you sell your home. But I’m of the opinion that many of those 34,000 realtors aren’t worth their salt, and at the risk of angering my industry colleagues, I’ll go on record and say there are just too damn many of us.
You need to know how to sort through the crap. There are a host of considerations, but the most important one is fit. You’ll need to work with this person for weeks and weeks on end—the buying process can drag on for months, and the selling process, if done correctly, should include a month of preparation before a home goes on the market for one to four weeks. Would you feel comfortable driving around for hours with this person, or spending several evenings examining your home with them? Here are some other important factors you should keep in mind when choosing a realtor:
Experience. Sorry to say, but a scary number of twentysomething agents watch too many real-estate TV shows and think that drinking Starbucks and driving a Mercedes is all the job entails. Make sure your realtor has pounded the pavement for at least a few years. On the flip side, if your realtor talks about being the No. 2 salesman in the company back in 1988, perhaps the old-timer isn’t as in touch with today’s market as he or she should be.
Knowledge. A smart realtor knows the whole city and does not “specialize” in one particular pocket. Technology has changed the industry and made it easier to keep track of what’s happening across Toronto. What good is your buyer-agent if they know Riverdale and Leslieville, but have no idea what’s going on west of Dufferin?
Business model. Your agent is also a part-time nightclub promoter? Really? Is that who you want representing you in your largest purchase or sale? The idea of a part-time realtor is a dream, save for those sixtysomethings who sell two properties a year for their families. Make sure your realtor works full-time—and in this market, that means 50 hours a week.
Marketing/advertising. If your listing agent says, “This property will sell itself. There isn’t much to do here,” run. The reality is, a major part of a listing agent’s job is figuring out how to effectively market the property. The question you need to ask listing agents is, “How are you going to make my property look better than what it’s actually worth?”
Reputation. There are some realtors so well known that their names alone will bring in more for a property. Names and brokerages are brands that have value, like Nike or Coke. Cooperating agents know that you can’t mess around with them and you can’t lowball them.
Trust. There is a difference between a consumer advocate and a salesperson. Many realtors are just after the next paycheque. But there are also realtors who recognize the value in satisfying their clients. Do you trust that your realtor will give you brutal honesty when you need it most? Try getting a recommendation from a friend, or group of friends, who have all used the same realtor and would use him or her again.
Volume. You’re not out of line if you ask your agent how much business they do. It’s an important question, and you need to know if he or she only had one listing last year, or if he or she did 60 deals and is at the top of the company.
With almost no barriers to entry in our industry, I suspect that the number of active realtors will continue to grow, before shrinking rapidly if and when the market ever corrects. This is all the more reason to choose your realtor carefully, and ensure you’re in good hands when you make one of the largest financial decisions of your life.
David Fleming is a Realtor with Bosley Real Estate in Toronto, and author of the best known real estate website in the city: www.torontorealtyblog.com. A constant thorn in the side of condominium developers, David’s sarcastic, opinionated, outlandish thoughts can be read daily, although for some people, that’s far too often.