Finding Mr. or Ms. Right ... realtor, that is
Once we'd decided to take the plunge into first-time home ownership, and started to eke out some of our priorities for our first home, our next, and very important step was finding a realtor we could trust.
The real estate market can be very intimidating for newbies like us. Drooling over listings on the MLS website, or any other listing service, is one thing, but setting up showings, researching neighbourhoods and making offers is a bigger, trickier task!
We know some people decide to go forward with their home purchase without a buyer's representative, but we didn't really entertain that option. We knew we'd need help navigating this process, from figuring out what neighbourhoods fit our criteria (close to transit, safe, no obvious reasons why the property would lose value during our time there) and keeping us rooted in reality so we don't end up "house poor" to making an offer and recommending the other professionals we'd need as part of our home buying team, such as home inspectors and real estate lawyers.
Starting off, I knew a buyer's agent existed, but wasn't entirely sure how the system works. After a little research, and asking a few questions, I learned that the buyer's representative would help you find a property suiting your criteria, set up showings, offer counsel throughout the process and basically be there to represent your interests and answer your questions — all good things. I also learned that the buyer's agent's commission is paid by the seller.
Additional helpful nuggets included that realtors have way more access to information and listings than we do, and are able to spend their time staying on top of the changes in the market, the news and new properties — unlike most first-time buyers, who are peeking at the info during lunch breaks and evenings. They also are more familiar with all the factors that go into a property's value, such as nearby schools, zoning issues and resale value.
So, armed with that info — and a ton more questions — we were ready to start scouting for the perfect realtor for our needs, which meant making another list of priorities! While easier than figuring out what we wanted in a house, this list was still very important. We wanted someone who was familiar with working with first-time buyers — and enjoyed it! — and was familiar with the 'hoods of interest while also being professional, knowledgeable and friendly. We needed to feel comfortable with them, as we're entrusting them with one of, if not the, biggest decisions and purchases of our life. And, by the same token, we needed to feel like we can trust them. Finally, we didn't want to feel pressured. As first-timers, we needed someone gentle who wasn't going to ask for quick decisions in this daunting task, and who wasn't going to make us sign anything on our first meeting. (As a side note, most realtors say you shouldn't sign the Buyer's Representation Agreement on your first meeting anyway.)
I'm happy to say that we've found someone who meets all those criteria, and then some. We call him @RealEstateSimon, as per his twitter handle (follow me @jenspeedy), and we love the fact that he tweets and blogs, as it gives us other ways to communicate and learn from him. As an added bonus, it means he spends almost as much time online as we do, as email tends to be our preferred method of communication. (You can email someone about a listing at 1:30 when your insomniac husband finds a promising place. Calling would not be so much appreciated.)
So, Mr. Speedy and I are plugging away in our search, but feel a little less worried now that we have a professional to help guide us along the way!
Catch up on the house hunt: