If you’re a first-time Buyer in the GTA, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is hiring a REALTOR to represent you. As a real estate newbie, who you hire can make the difference between a great home buying experience, or a terrible one. It can mean buying the right home – or the wrong one. It can mean paying too much – or not. And as a first-timer, you have unique needs you probably don’t even know about.
If you don’t know why you need an agent, click here to read: What Does the Buyer’s Agent Do?
How to Choose the Best REALTOR
Here’s what to look for if you’re serious about hiring the best agent to help you buy your first home:
1. Experience working with first-time Buyers
There’s a lot to know when you buy your first home and it’s your agent’s job to help educate you. Hire someone who loves helping real estate rookies and will take the time to walk you through the process at your pace. The best REALTORS for first-timers take the time to answer all your questions (even those you haven’t thought to ask). They won’t use words you don’t understand or make you feel bad about your budget. They remember what it’s like to be a first-timer because they help people like you every day.
Don’t hire: the agent who prefers to work with independent, big-budget buyers.
2. Patience and excellent listening skills
Look for an agent who is patient and listens to what you want and what you’re concerned about. Newbie homebuyers usually search for a home longer than people buying for the second or third time; their needs sometimes change mid-search and it’s not uncommon to get cold feet at some point. Partner with an agent who understands and is willing to stick it out with you.
Don’t hire: the agent who’s more concerned with getting the deal done than helping you find the right home.
3. Expertise in your target neighbourhoods and the type of property you want to buy
You’re a newbie – it’s ok to not have all the answers. The best agent for you will be one that knows the neighbourhoods you’re interested in and understands the unique considerations of the type of property you want to buy. Buying a condo? Hire someone who sells a lot of condos. Looking for a century-old fixer-upper? Hire an agent who has sold a lot of them.
Don’t hire: your Mom’s friend who only sells houses in the suburbs if you’re buying a condo downtown.
4. Connections to other professionals
When you’re buying your first home, you’ll need a mortgage broker, a real estate lawyer and a home inspector – and like REALTORS, the quality of these professionals can vary a lot. Great agents have partnerships with the best.
Your relationship with your REALTOR shouldn’t end when you get the keys to your new home – you should be able to count on them for as long as you own the home. Hire an agent who has a roster of trusted home service professionals, from handymen and cleaners to painters, roofers, electricians, plumbers and more. Trust me, you’ll need them at some point.
Don’t hire: the newbie agent who doesn’t yet have the relationships to connect you with trusted partners.
5. A solid track record of sales and killer negotiating and strategy skills
Toronto real estate moves at a break-neck pace, so hire someone who is actively engaged in the market every day and can help guide you on prices and strategies to get the home you want. The best agents work in real estate full-time – this isn’t a hobby for them. They’ve sold a lot of homes and they know how to negotiate and strategize.
Don’t hire: the agent who sells 5 homes a year and doesn’t know the current state of the market beyond what’s in the headlines.
6. Modern real estate skills
The Toronto real estate industry still operates like it’s 1995 in many ways. As a first-timer, look for an agent who’s familiar with:
- Collab – a sexy property search tool that all GTA agents have access to (but few know how to use)
- Electronic signatures – for convenient document signing
- Electronic Fund Transfers (EFT’s) – for delivering deposits without having to get a certified cheque
- Being mobile – modern agents can do almost everything they need to do from their phone or iPad
Don’t hire: the agent who has a fax number on their business card or doesn’t know how to text.
7. A REALTOR who is responsive and communicative
Hiring a REALTOR you can easily communicate with is crucial and is often the biggest factor that determines the kind of home buying experience you’ll have. The best agents respond to you quickly, using the type of communication you like – if you’re a texter, they’ll text you too.
Don’t hire: the agent who takes a day to respond to your messages.
8. An agent who values being available when it’s convenient for you
Great agents are available to look at homes when you are or they’ll be able to connect you with a team-mate or partner who can help when your schedules don’t mesh. Real estate in Toronto moves fast.
Don’t hire: the agent who brags that they don’t work on Sundays.
9. A stellar reputation
It probably comes as no surprise, that similarly to every other profession, there are some terrible REALTORS in Toronto. Thankfully, you can check an agent’s reputation by searching for reviews online on Google, Yelp or Facebook. Look for detailed reviews from people who’ve actually bought with the agent and be suspicious of one-line reviews that look like they could have been left by the agent’s friends or colleagues.
Don’t hire: the secret agent who is invisible online and has no reviews or can’t provide you with references.
Buying your first home is exciting – make sure to hire the right REALTOR to guide and protect your interests. We can help!
Related: The Ultimate First Time Buyer Guide