1. Hire a Neighbourhood Pro. If you’re looking to buy, a REALTOR who regularly works in your target neighbourhood will be a lot more valuable to you than someone who’ll drive all over the GTA for a commission cheque. Top agents know what they know AND they know what they don’t know. Be wary of a REALTOR offering to sell your downtown home AND help you buy a home in Oakville.
2. Hire Experience. Real estate is a profession with a fairly low barrier to entry, meaning it’s relatively simple for someone to get a real estate license. What isn’t simple, however, is being a good REALTOR (let alone a great REALTOR). Thousands of new agents get their license every year – do you want to be their guinea pig? A shocking number of Toronto Realtors sell one house/condo per year – do you want to be their one sale per year? Ask the important questions: How long have you been the business? How many places do you sell a year? [Related: All REALTORS are Not Created Equal]
3. Hire Expertise. Selling old Toronto houses is different than selling sky-high towers. Representing a Seller is different than representing a Buyer. What is your prospective REALTOR’s expertise?
4. Never Trust a REALTOR with a Second Job. Great REALTORS work in their business full-time – in fact, most work long hours, 7 days a week. When they aren’t working with clients, they’re out inspecting properties and neighbourhoods and keeping on top of what’s happening in the market. Part-time agents are a dime a dozen (and worth about as much, at least in the minds of these full-time REALTORS!)
5. Don’t Work with Friends or Family. Yes, everyone has a friend in real estate, or worse, knows a guy who knows a girl who’s married to a guy who just got his license – but business and friendship rarely ever mix. If you can fire your friend and not damage the friendship, then, by all means, hire away. But it usually doesn’t turn out that way. [Related: My Friend’s an Agent: Should I Hire Them?]
6. You Get What you Pay for. In Toronto, real estate services come in all shapes and sizes: you can merely list your property on MLS for $150 and do everything yourself; you can list with a discount broker who provides limited services; or you can list with a full-service broker and get the marketing, expertise and strategy that comes with higher commissions. Decide what you need, what you’re prepared to pay for and pick accordingly.
7. Houses Don’t Just Sell Themselves. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that simply putting a listing on MLS will result in the highest possible price. Ask a lot of questions about marketing, pricing and strategy – and make sure they’re on top of new techniques and technology. [Related: Here’s How the BREL team Markets Homes for Sale]
8. People are more likely to buy a product that their friend likes – and for good reason. Ask your friends and colleagues for recommendations of REALTORS they’ve had great experiences with.
9. Past Performance is the Best Predictor of Future Performance. Check online for recommendations and reviews and ask your prospective agent for testimonials. Better yet, ask to call or e-mail past clients for feedback – before you sign any agreements. And always ask a prospective REALTOR what percentage of their business comes from repeat clients and referrals – that’s one of the best ways to gauge how happy their clients truly are.
10. Who are you Actually Hiring? Some top agents will meet with you once, then pawn you off to their assistants. If your goal is to hire the best, make sure that you’ll actually get to work with the best.
11. Great REALTORS have Great Partners. Experienced Agents have amassed a team of trusted partners, from lenders to lawyers to contractors.
12. Get a second opinion. Did you know that 73% of people hire the first agent they talk to? Get a second opinion. (shameless plug: give us a call!)