These are some of the most frequently asked questions by buyers. If your question isn't here, feel free to email me, I'll respond with your answer.
What is the difference between a Real Estate Agent and a Real Estate Broker?
Most provinces require real estate sales professionals to be licensed by the province, so that they can control education and experience requirements and have a central authority to resolve consumer problems.
Brokers are generally required to have more education and experience than real estate salespersons or agents.
Why should I use a real estate salesperson?
The person you normally deal with is a real estate agent or salesperson. The salesperson is licensed by the province, but must work for a broker. All listings are placed in the broker's name, not the salesperson's.
A broker can deal directly with home buyers and sellers, or can have a staff of salespersons or agents working for him or her.
A real estate salesperson is more than just a "sales person." They act on your behalf as your agent, providing you with advice and guidance and doing a job - helping you buy or sell a home. While it is true they get paid for what they do, so do other professions that provide advice, guidance, and have a service to sell --such as Certified Public Accountants and Attorneys.
The Internet has opened up a world of information that wasn't previously available to homebuyers and sellers. The data on listings available for sale is almost current - but not quite. There are times when you need the most current information about what has sold or is for sale and the only way to get that is with an agent.
If you're selling a home, you gain access to the most buyers buy being listed in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Only a licensed real estate agent who is a member of yourlocal MLS can get you listed there - which then gets you automatically listed on some of the major real estate web sites. If you're buying or selling a home, the MLS is your agent's best tool.
However, the role of an agent has changed in the last couple of years. In the past, agents were the only way home buyers and sellers could access information. Now agents are evolving. Because today's home buyers and sellers are so much better informed than in the past, expertise and ability are becoming more important.
The real estate agent is becoming more of a "guide" than a "salesperson" - your personal representative in buying or selling a home.
What is the responsibility of the real estate broker to me?
A realtor must disclose to you in writing, who exactly they represent in any real estate deal. A realtor may represent you as a buyer or a seller; he or she may also represent both buyer and seller in the same transaction. Because all realtors are guided by a stringent Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice, a realtor will always treat you fairly.
As your agent, the realtor owes you the duties of utmost care, integrity, confidentiality and loyalty. Make sure you discuss agency with your realtor. In most provinces, if a realtor is showing you homes, they are automatically deemed to legally be your agent, and owe you all of the associated obligations.
What do I need to decide when I'm ready to buy a home?
If you've decided to buy a home, start by determining what type of community, or specific neighbourhood, you're interested in. List your space needs, including:
- living space requirements (ie. how many bedrooms)
- what you're bringing with you from your old house
- how close to schools, shopping and other services
- the size of down payment you can afford
- price range
How will a real estate broker help me find my dream home?
Once you've identified the features you want in a home, the search begins. A Realtor will use various tools to try and find properties that meet your specifications. One of the important search tools will be the local MLS system. By sitting down at a computer the Realtor can key in your needs, choice of neighbourhoods and price range and immediately come up with a list of suitable properties available through the MLS system. Also common are MLS catalogues, which provide additional information about each property, along with its photograph. Both computer systems and catalogues are updated regularly.
How do I decide my price range when buying a home?
It's important to be realistic when you're thinking about a down payment and setting a price range. You don't want to be saddled with something you can't afford. At this stage, it's a good idea to talk things over with a mortgage specialist, they can tell you exactly what you can afford based on your credit scores and existing debt.
Once I find a house I like, what would be the next step?
Once you find the house you want to make your home, you can work with a REALTOR to develop an offer. In the offer, you should specify how much you're willing to pay. State when the offer expires, and suggest a closing date for the transaction. You can also propose some conditions on the offer. Some common types of conditions are:
- getting a suitable mortgage (include the amount, interest rates and any other figures you feel important);
- selling your current home (the seller may continue to look for a buyer, but will give you the right of first refusal);
- the seller providing a current survey, or a "real property report," showing the location of the house on the property owned by the seller and that there are no encroachments;
- the seller having title to the property (your lawyer will check this out when he or she conducts a title search to see if there are any liens on the property, easements, rights of way or height restrictions);
- if there is a septic system, the seller should have a health inspection certificate, stating the system meets local standards;
- if you still have any doubts about the home's safety and construction, you may wish to make the purchase conditional on an inspection by a qualified engineer;
- any inclusions - basically, what stays and what goes.
What will I need to bring with my offer?
You will need to present a deposit along with your offer. An appropriate deposit will show your good faith to the seller. The seller's agent is bound by law to bring all offers to the seller's attention.
After your offer is accepted and all the conditions are met, the offer becomes binding on both sides. If you walk away from the deal at that point, you may lose your deposit. You may also be sued for damages. Therefore make sure you understand and agree with all of the terms of the offer before signing.