July 29th 2022
The Scott Brothers Q&A: What to look for in a real estate agent when buying a home in Canada
In this limited series, our investors and Canadian real estate industry experts, the Scott Brothers, answer Canada’s most burning real estate questions in order to help you buy, move, and sell with more confidence and less stress.
Finding a real estate agent that really ‘clicks’ with you and understands your needs is crucial if you’re getting ready to start the search for a new place to call home. The right agent can help guide you through the challenging (but exciting!) buying process — and achieve the best result.
If you look at Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) stats, you may be surprised to know that there are around 140,000 real estate agents registered in Canada, each with their own specialties and skills. That’s a lot to choose from. So how would we go about choosing the right agent, and what traits do the best Canadian real estate agents have?
We asked Drew and Jonathan Scott for a list of things to think about when you’re searching for the right agent for you.
Q: What should I look for in a real estate agent when buying my dream home?
1. Expertise in where you're looking to buy
Drew: Buying a home is a deeply personal process. A real estate agent has to get to know you, your family, and every inch of your finances, hopes, and fears — they basically become a temporary member of the family!
Condo in the city? Or house in the country? Depending on what's on your wish list, what you need out of an agent may change. While all real estate agents should understand current market trends overall, the best real estate agents aren't generalists — they're specialized in a particular area, be it housing type or geographic location.
This doesn’t just mean knowing your ideal building type or property size — it also includes all of the things that would make you happiest in a new ‘hood. For inspiration, check out this Happiness Index, which breaks down the happiest neighbourhoods in Toronto and Vancouver, and the characteristics (schools, parks, community features) that make them a pleasure to live in.
2. Connections to other professionals
Jonathan: Luckily, finding a solid real estate agent is easier, thanks to organizations like the Canadian Real Estate Association. Being a member of the CREA is a great indicator of meeting a basic professional standard.
Real estate agents in CREA and other reputable associations also have access to Multiple Listing Services (MLS). These systems allow them to share comprehensive and reliable data on homes, so you know that your real estate agent has all the best tools available to help you.
An agent with connections to a large network of stagers, cleaners, marketers, and other professional vendors can have a significant competitive advantage, making your future buying process way easier—and hopefully, more enjoyable.
3. Honestly? Honesty!
Drew: Honesty is the best policy, and one of the qualities you should seek out in a real estate agent. You don't want an agent who agrees with you all the time, especially when they think it's what you want to hear. The best ones manage your expectations, and are straight with you when it counts.
4. A great track record of success
Jonathan: Buyers should consider looking at an agent's recent report card over the past year — think quality over quantity. In addition to looking at the number of homes they’ve brokered or sold, look closely for any information that indicates a high number of satisfied buyers, positive client reviews, and a proven knowledge of the area you have chosen to buy in.
You could also start by casually asking the agent about their average list-price-to-sale-price ratio, and how long it typically takes their clients to close on a home.
Ideally, you're looking for someone with a track record that proves they can find good homes for you, and fast.
5. A pro with the financial knowledge to guide you with confidence
Drew: You’re going to want to collaborate with a real estate agent that not only knows the neighbourhood landscape and the buying process inside and out — but one who also knows all the financial options available. With that kind of knowledge, they can better support you on the financial options that will work best for you.
Whether that’s consulting on fees, or offering advice on different financing options, look for an agent that’s pretty friendly with financial knowledge.
Q: How do you find a good real estate agent in Canada, for buying, selling, or both?
1. Get referrals from friends and family
Jonathan: There are actually quite a few ways you can meet and greet the right real estate agent, from tapping into connections and scouring the internet, to even finding one "in the wild."
Get agent insights from people who have been through this already: other Canadian buyers and sellers. A good way to get started is by asking your network for recommendations. Reach out to friends, family, coworkers, and neighbours to learn about their experiences with different real estate agents.
Especially look for references from folks who had similar buying aspirations as you. Real estate is a local business, so you're going to want to work with someone who knows the community you're interested in.
2. Research online and look at those reviews
Drew: Transparent real estate agents will usually provide you with a list of client references or testimonials. Since these references might be biased, don't hesitate to ask tough questions and really dig for information.
Lean into online reviews that pop up when you search agents' names. Read the full reviews.
The Canadian Better Business Bureau is also a pretty useful resource for checking out the credibility of both agents and brokerages. Of course, any mention of misconduct, disciplinary action, or breach of duty (like breaking a contract) is a huge—and helpful—red flag.
3. Interview several agents
Jonathan: Your best bet is to interview several agents and find a real connection — and don’t settle for less.
You need to take some time to get to know each other. Ask both fun and challenging questions during these agent interviews, and be prepared to answer some yourself.
During this "get-to-know you" phase, you can focus on building rapport, but also cover the home-buying basics, like what each person's preferred method of communication is, and what the real estate agent's contract will cover.
4. Look for signs! And media!
Drew: Canadian real estate agents are experts in self-promotion, so you don't have to look very far to find their contact information. Take a walk around your neighbourhood, and take note of local agents featured on ‘Sold’ or ‘For Sale’ signs in front yards, or the strategically-placed agent ads on benches or bus stop shelters.
Following real estate social media accounts is also a great way to see relevant content on your feed, and likely will link you to an agent's personal page, and maybe a listing for your dream home.
You can also open up your options by visiting open houses in person, or booking virtual tours to meet real estate agents and see them in their element.
Ready to find the right real estate agent for you? Here’s where to start
Rest assured, Properly keeps all of the above in mind, and has done the due diligence in building a team of agents that can offer you knowledge, give you choices, and answer any and all questions to make the home-buying process as stress-free as can be. Reach out to them directly and they’ll help find the perfect agent for you. Or, see their agent list here.
Happy house hunting!