If you are thinking of buying or selling a property, hopefully you are going to hire a real estate agent. (Please don’t make me go through the list of reasons why you need to hire an agent! That would seem self-serving and the reasons are far too obvious. I mean, let’s get real for a moment, just because you can google how to do something, doesn’t mean you should make it a DIY!) So, you don’t need me to tell you how important it is that you use an agent, right? Ok, good. But now what? There are over 39,000 agents in Toronto. How do you pick one? A good place to start is with referrals. Once you have a few names, it is imperative that you interview each and every candidate. So here’s what you need to ask…
How long have you been in the business?
The regulations to become a real estate agent in Ontario are such that after completing 3 mandatory courses, a newly registered agent can begin to trade in real estate immediately, while still finishing the education process. Didn’t Albert Einstein tell us that “The only source of knowledge is experience?” Well, I’m not going to argue with that guy. Can you imagine if the lawyer you were using to beat that murder rap was still in law school? Or if the doc that is removing your “extra” toe was still learning how to do a suture? An agent’s experience is paramount to any other quality. A new agent won’t have the resources and tools to manage the myriad of issues that come up during the buying and/or selling process. A really good follow-up question to this one would be “Are you a full-time agent?” This will help you weed out the candidates who don’t take the job seriously. You don’t really want someone who’s only experience has been selling Aunt Sally’s home and helping cousin Steve find a condo to rent. If they aren’t confident enough in their own abilities to make it a full time job, then neither should you! Besides, a full time agent will have you as a priority, not the day job they keep to pay the bills!
How many deals did you close last year?
Did you know that of all the Toronto Realtors (those 39,000 folks I was talking about earlier), 20% of them didn’t sell a single property last year?! Chances are (one in five, in fact), one of the agents sitting across from you during the interview, is one of them. Do you think they have what it takes to get you top dollar? Further more, you should ask, “How many of those deals were you the selling agent?” There is a big difference in knowledge required during the selling process of a home, as opposed to the buying one. Another appropriate follow-up question here would be “What was the average selling price for the deals you closed last year?” The agent you are interviewing might be an award-winning, top-selling agent but if all his deals were condos in the downtown core, that doesn’t really help you with your detached home in Summerhill, and vice versa. You need someone who understands your particular market, not just the market as a whole.
What area do you work in?
Just as the dollar value of your agent’s history matters, so does the area. Homes from one area to the next might compare in features (i.e. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, detached garage) but the home in Mississauga isn’t equal in value to the one in Forest Hill. The other thing to remember is that often times, agents who work a particular area will have a cache of people (previous clients or prospects) who they know are thinking of buying or selling “some day.” Perhaps your home is the one that will make them jump into the market.
Would you share your references?
If you have not met this agent through one of your own referrals, than ask if you can email, talk or meet with one of their past clients. The opportunity to communicate one-on-one with a previous client can give you great insight into how they operate. Some agents will ask previous clients to take a perspective client out for coffee or dinner, without the agent present, so they can get a real picture of the work they did, without the pressure of the sales pitch. Also ask how much of their business is by referral and/or repeat clients. This is an excellent indicator of how well an agent performs and that the prior clients were satisfied.
How will you communicate with me?
Communication is imperative. Often and immediate are what most clients expect from their realtor. Find a realtor who will communicate with you in the form that best works for you, whether it’s phone, email or text. You should also ask who will be your main contact. Some busy agents have a team of assistants and they become your only point of contact. If this matters to you, make sure you ask.
So, there you have it. Those are the most important questions. Don’t be afraid to ask them. If an agent doesn’t want to answer the hard questions, or dances around them, thank them for their time and move on to the next prospect. An agent needs to be completely transparent.
I know that I’d pass with flying colours. Call me if you’re thinking about selling.
Oh, by the way, don’t tell anyone who gave you this list of questions. Most agents won’t like it! 😉