August 17th 2022
The Scott Brothers Q&A - The first date: Questions to ask a real estate agent before buying a home
In this limited series, our investors and Canadian real estate industry experts — the Scott Brothers, answer Canada’s most burning real estate questions, which can help you buy, move, and sell with more confidence, and less stress.
Choosing the right real estate agent is an important step in kicking off your search for a new home. Once you have a few prospects in mind, it's time to get to know them by conducting informal interviews. Think of these initial meetings the same way you would a first date: you want to make sure you're compatible before you commit.
This interview process is about more than finding out their commission costs or negotiation tactics. Good questions to ask your real estate agent are ones that will make sure your real estate agent:
- Has in-depth knowledge, expertise and proven results
- Understands your needs and wants, like target neighbourhoods
- Aligns their schedule and communication style to yours
We asked Drew and Jonathan Scott to weigh in on one of your biggest questions: Regardless of whether you’re a buyer or seller, what exactly should you ask an agent? Here’s their advice.
What are the best questions to ask a real estate agent on the "first date"?
1. “How long have you been doing this?”
Drew: First and foremost, learn how much experience your potential real estate agent has. You're going to want to find someone with a lot of experience, and a depth of understanding of the real estate market. Everyone has to start somewhere though, so don't necessarily pass on a rookie real estate agent — but be sure to ask if they'll be receiving guidance and input from a broker, or someone more senior on their team.
2. “What neighbourhoods do you have experience in?”
Jonathan: The best real estate agents know their neighbourhoods. Once you have a neighbourhood in mind, look for someone who has experience buying and selling in it. In addition to giving you insight into location-specific factors like safety and accessibility, they’ll be able to answer more niche questions like:
- What’s the vibe of the neighbourhood?
- Is it family friendly?
- Does it have liveable noise levels?
- What’s its history - any unique historical anecdotes to speak of?
Not sure what neighbourhood is right for you? Check out Toronto and Vancouver's Happiness Index, which ranks neighbourhoods in Canada's top cities in categories: Food & Drink, Outdoor Space, Recreation, Community and Childcare/Schools.
3. “What's your schedule like — when (and how) are you usually available?”
Drew: Ask your real estate agent if they work full-time or part-time, as part-time agents may have different schedules to work within, such as early mornings, late nights, or weekends. While finding a home and making timely offers requires a lot of hard work and dedication, it's normal for a real estate agent to not be available around the clock.
It’s so important to set expectations around availability up front, so there are no surprises – and it’s easy to do this, simply by communicating your boundaries and expectations to each other in your initial getting-to-know-you conversations.
4. “Do you fly solo, or work in a team?”
Jonathan: Some real estate agents are independent, and others work with a larger group. This group might be other agents, brokers, and a team leader, or support staff like an administrative assistant.
There are benefits to a bigger team, like increased availability to make sure your offers go out as quickly as possible, and more resources to ensure all of your correct home-buying documentation is going to the right place. More people means more unique skill sets, too.
5. “What chunk of your business is working with home buyers vs. home sellers?”
Drew: Find out roughly what percentage of the real estate agent's business is dedicated to buying, and what's focused on selling. While most real estate agents can help a buyer and a seller, some may have a specialty.
If you plan on building a long-term relationship with a real estate agent, though, your best bet would be to find someone who has strong expertise in both buying and selling homes – and can support you in any future moves you want to make.
6. “In the last year, how many homes have you helped buyers find and close on?”
Jonathan: A successful real estate agent will often have worked with many clients, but there's a difference between a real estate agent's number of buyers, and the number of buyers that found what they needed. Once you have the number, ask for information that indicates a high instance of satisfied buyers — like referrals and reviews.
7. “How long did it take your recent clients to find and buy their home?”
Drew: You don't want a real estate agent who has a history of taking too long. In a steady, predictable market, Canadians can expect to buy a home in as little as 30 to 60 days. A red flag might be multiple clients where the entire process took more than several months.
That being said, keep in mind the larger real estate market and what may not be the agent’s fault. For example, recent interest rate increases to combat inflation have impacted mortgage rates, as well as supply and demand. Also keep in mind the season: summer and winter tend to be slower sale seasons, while spring and fall bring out the buyers. If you’re concerned about an agent’s history when it comes to Days on Market, keep in mind that external factors like these may be the reason.
On the flip side, watch out for real estate agents that claim to work faster than average. Finding and purchasing a home is a labour of love, and you don't want anyone who rushes the process or makes false promises.
8. “How are you going to find out what I want and need in a home?”
Jonathan: Many real estate agents have surveys with basic questions to help a buyer find what they're looking for, so ask for this when you meet. Realistic real estate agents will also manage your expectations by letting you know what you can afford, and only suggest homes that are within your price range.
9. “How many people are you currently helping buy a home?”
Drew: Being able to multitask and help a lot of clients is a strength, but beware of an agent that's stretched too thin. Most agents can do a great job of supporting about 10 customers at once - beyond that, it may be a bit of a challenge for an agent to devote enough time and energy to help you find your next home.
10. How will you keep me in the loop during the process?
Jonathan: There are a lot of different methods to keep in touch these days: phone, email, text. Find out how your real estate agent prefers to be contacted, and be sure it matches up with how you best communicate too.
11. How often will I hear from you?
Drew: You're going to want someone who can commit to clear and consistent communication. You should talk to your real estate agent at least once a week, and in a fast-moving market, daily check-ins may be needed so you and your agent can stay on top of any new listings or opportunities.
12. “What can I do as a buyer to make sure we're successful?”
Jonathan: To strengthen your relationship with your real estate agent and to make sure you score your home, it's a good idea to know what they expect on your end.
One way you can help make the process smooth is by being prepared to make an offer when the time comes. That means having a deposit in order and sufficient cash on hand. Buying a home is, of course, a big investment, so prepare by knowing all the costs.
13. “What makes you different?”
Drew: There are an estimated 140,000 real estate agents in Canada. With so many to choose from, your agent should be able to tell you what their unique value proposition is — basically what sets them apart.
How do you hire a real estate agent to buy or sell a home?
With this list of questions handy, you'll be ready to start meeting with some real estate agents. Start your search for the right agent by reading more tips from the Scott brothers, like where you can find the best agents and what credentials and knowledge put them at the top of their game.